Hair cells, the receptor cells for sound, are a highly susceptible part of the auditory system. Hair cell loss is the leading cause of deafness, occurring in almost half a billion people worldwide. Despite the prevalence, there are no biological treatments available for deafness. The current standards of care are restricted to palliative devices including hearing aids or cochlear implants that provide only partial hearing restoration for a limited patient population. As such, there is a significant demand for the development of a pharmacological treatment for hearing loss.
Manipulating specific cell developmental pathways in cochlear stem cells is a potential approach to activate hair cell regeneration and reverse hearing loss. This project aims to test small molecules or drugs that regulate pathways required for hair cell development for the treatment of hearing loss. The available projects fall into two categories and can be modified to suit individual background/strengths.
- In vitro: Developing a drug screening platform to test the efficacy of small molecules or drugs in promoting hair cell differentiation
- In vivo: Investigating the potential of specific drug treatments in promoting hair cell regeneration and restoring hearing function in animal deafness models
The project will involve the application of cell culture, next-generation sequencing, standard molecular biology, surgery, histology, and hearing physiology techniques to assess the efficacy of drug treatments in experimental models.
These PhD projects will suit students with a background in cell or molecular biology, physiology, biomedicine, genetics or neuroscience.