Testing nano-engineered drug delivery systems to treat hearing loss

Supervisors: Dr Niki Gunewardene, A/Prof Andrew Wise

It has long been established that hair cells in the inner ear are susceptible to damage. Recent evidence has revealed that the synapses between hair cells and neurons are the first to degenerate in the ageing or noise-exposed inner ear. Loss of the synaptic connections between hair cells and auditory neurons can impair our ability to understand speech in noisy environments and may be associated with the generation of tinnitus and/or hyperacusis.

This project will focus on developing a treatment strategy to repair the synaptic connections in the damaged inner ear. We have recently made significant progress in the development of a nanoparticle-based drug delivery system. Here, we are interested in further interrogating the elution profile and bioactivity of the nanoparticle released drugs. The project will involve developing an in vitro model that mimics the loss of cochlear synapses to test the efficacy of nanoparticle-delivered drugs in promoting synaptic regeneration. In addition, this model will be used to investigate the molecular mechanisms underlying synaptopathy.

This study will involve micro-dissection, cell culture, and standard molecular biology and immunostaining techniques.

This PhD project will suit a student with a background in cell or molecular biology, biomedicine, genetics or neuroscience.

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