“The main goal of the research that I am currently involved in is to protect and restore hearing using gene therapy in the cochlea. I am using viral gene therapy techniques to create localised regions of gene expression that can be used for hair cell regeneration or nerve survival. These techniques have the potential to recreate the neural innervation patterns seen in normal hearing cochleae, help improve the outcomes achieved with cochlear implantation or even restore hearing by repopulating the damaged sensory region of the cochlea with new hair cells and encouraging neural synapses with these new hair cells.”







Rachael Richardson

BSc (Hons), PhD

Senior Research Fellow, Bionics Institute

P: +61 3 9667 7594
F: +61 3 9667 7518
E: rrichardson@bionicsinstitute.org


Dr Rachael Richardson is a Senior Research Fellow at the Bionics Institute. She has a background in molecular biology (Walter and Eliza Hall Institute) and hearing science (Bionics Institute). Her current research projects have the common goal of protecting and regenerating sensory cells in the cochlea after hearing loss. She is interested in the use of gene therapy techniques to express therapeutic proteins such as neurotrophins and transcription factors in specific cells of the cochlea. These factors have the potential to protect cochlear neurons and hair cells and even to promote the regeneration of these cells after hearing loss. Her work is published in high ranking peer reviewed journals.

Dr Richardson collaborates with senior researchers in the field of cochlear implantation, hearing research and biomedical engineering, including Prof. Stephen O’Leary, Prof Paul Stoddart, Dr Andrew Wise and Dr James Fallon. She collaborates with research leaders from the University of Washington, Swinburne University and the University of Wollongong. She supervises PhD, honours and undergraduate students and is currently accepting new students.

Dr Richardson receives funding from the NHMRC, Action on Hearing Loss (UK) and the Garnett Passe and Rodney Williams Memorial Foundation (Australia).

Research fields of interest

  • Protecting and regenerating sensory cells (auditory nerves and cochlear hair cells) after hearing loss

  • Gene therapy in the cochlea

  • Protection of residual hearing during cochlear implantation 

  • Improving the nerve-electrode interface of the cochlear implant

Research projects

 RACHR_haircell_434.png                      Confocal image of an inner hair cell (blue) innervated by afferent fibers of spiral ganglion neurons (green) with presynaptic connections shown by the small red dots on the hair cell. Nearby cell nuclei can be seen in red (larger red circles).  


Student projects


  1. AK Wise, BO Flynn, PJ Atkinson, JB Fallon, M Nicholson and RT Richardson (2015). Regeneration of cochlear hair cells with Atoh1 gene therapy after noise-induced hearing loss. Journal of Regenerative Medicine 4:1

  2. RT Richardson and PJ Atkinson (2015). Atoh1 gene therapy in the cochlea for hair cell regeneration. Expert Opinion on Biological Therapy 15(3): 1-14

  3. L Gillespie, RT Richardson, BA Nayagam and AK Wise (2014). Treating hearing disorders with cell and gene therapy. Journal of Neural Engineering 11: 065001

  4. S Irving, L Gillespie, R Richardson, D Rowe, J Fallon and A Wise (2014). Electro-acoustic stimulation: now and into the future. BioMed Research International 2014: 350504 (Special issue - Preventing hearing loss and restoring hearing: a new outlook) doi:10.1155/2014/350504

  5. PJ Atkinson, AK Wise, BO Flynn, BA Nayagam and RT Richardson (2014). Hair cell regeneration after ATOH1 gene therapy in the cochlea of profoundly deaf adult guinea pigs PLoS ONE 9(7); e102077 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102077

  6. PJ Atkinson, AK Wise, BO Flynn, BA Nayagam and RT Richardson. Viability of long-term gene therapy in the cochlea. Scientific Reports 4, 4733; DOI:10.1038/srep04733 (2014)

  7. C Newbold, S Mergen, R Richardson, P Seligman, R Millard, R Cowan, R Shepherd (2014). Impedance changes in chronically implanted and stimulated cochlear implant electrodes. Cochlear Implants International 15(4); 191

  8. SJ O’Leary, P Monksfield, G Kel, T Connolly, MA Souter, A Chang, P Marovic, JS O’Leary, R Richardson, H Eastwood (2013). Relations between cochlear histopathology and hearing loss in experimental cochlear implantation. Hearing Research 298; 27-35

  9. PJ Atkinson, AK Wise, BO Flynn, BA Nayagam, CR Hume, SJ O’Leary, RK Shepherd, RT Richardson (2012). Neurotrophin gene therapy for sustained neural preservation after deafness. PLoS ONE 7(12): e52338

  10. C Newbold, R Richardson, R Millard, P Seligman, R Cowan and R Shepherd (2011). Electrical stimulation causes rapid changes in electrode impedance of cell-covered electrodes. Journal of Neural Engineering 8; 036029

  11. AK Wise, T Tu, PJ Atkinson, BO Flynn, BE Sgro, C Hume, SJ O’Leary, RK Shepherd and RT Richardson (2011). The effect of deafness duration on neurotrophin gene therapy for spiral ganglion neuron protection. Hearing Research 278(1-2); 69-76

  12. B Thompson, S Moulton, R Richardson, G Wallace (2011) Effect of the dopant anion in polypyrrole on nerve growth and release of a neurotrophic protein. Biomaterials 32(15); 3822-31

  13. C Newbold, R Richardson, R Millard, C Huang, D Milojevic, R Shepherd, R Cowan (2010) Changes in biphasic electrode impedance with protein adsorption and cell growth Journal of Neural Engineering 7(5); 056011

  14. H Eastwood, A Chang, G Kel, D Sly, R Richardson, S O'Leary (2010) Round window delivery of dexamethasone ameliorates local and remote hearing loss produced by cochlear implantation into the second turn of the guinea pig cochlea Hearing Research 265(1-2); 25-29

  15. T Connolly, H Eastwood, G Kel, H Lisnichuk, R Richardson and S O’Leary (2010). Pre-operative intravenous dexamethasone prevents auditory threshold shift in a guinea pig model of cochlear implantation Audiology and Neurotology 16(3); 137-144

  16. AK Wise, CR Hume, BO Flynn, YS Jeelall, CL Suhr, BE Sgro, SJ O'Leary, RK Shepherd and RT Richardson (2010). Effects of localized neurotrophin gene expression on spiral ganglion neuron resprouting in the deafened cochlea. Molecular Therapy 18 (6); 1111-1122

  17. H Eastwood, D Pinder, D James, A Chang, S Galloway, R Richardson and S O’Leary (2010). Permanent and transient effects of locally delivered n-acetyl cysteine in a guinea pig model of cochlear implantation. Hearing Research 259; 24-30

  18. S Maini, H Lisnichuk, H Eastwood, D Pinder, D James, R Richardson, A Chang, T Connolly, G Kel and S O’Leary (2009). Targeted therapy of the inner ear. Audiology Neurotology 14(6):402-410

  19. A Chang, H Eastwood, D Sly, D James, R Richardson and S O’Leary (2009) Factors influencing the efficacy of round window dexamethasone protection of residual hearing post-cochlear implant surgery Hearing Research 255(1-2); 67-72

  20. BC Thompson, RT Richardson, SE Moulton, AJ Evans, S O’Leary, GM Clark and GG Wallace (2009). Conducting polymers, dual neurotrophins and pulsed electrical stimulation – dramatic effects on neurite outgrowth Journal of Controlled Release 141(2); 161-167

  21. SJ O’Leary, RT Richardson and HJ McDermott (2009). Principles of design and biological approaches for improving the selectivity of cochlear implant electrodes. Journal of Neural Engineering 6(5); 55002   **Image used on journal front cover

  22. RT Richardson, A Wise, B Thompson, B Flynn, P Atkinson, N Fretwell, J Fallon, G Wallace, R Shepherd, G Clark and S O’Leary (2009). Polypyrrole-Coated Electrodes for the Delivery of Charge and Neurotrophins to Cochlear Neurons Biomaterials 30; 2614-2624


    See more publications by Rachael Richardson in PubMed


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