Dr Niliksha Gunewardene

Research Fellow B.BMed, PostGradDipMSc, PhD,

Dr Niliksha Gunewardene

Dr Niliksha Gunewardene has expertise in stem cell biology and auditory neuroscience.  She graduated from the University of Auckland in 2008, with a bachelor’s in biomedical science, and postgraduate diploma in medical science. She then pursued a master’s project under the supervision of Professor Srdjan Vlajkovic investigating the application of adenosine receptor agonists for hair cell regeneration in Cisplatin-damaged cochleae. In 2011, Dr Gunewardene undertook a PhD with Assoc. Professor Bryony Nayagam at the University of Melbourne. Her research focused on investigating the potential of induced pluripotent stem cells for auditory neuron replacement in the deaf cochlea. Her PhD was nominated for the Deans prize for excellence and resulted in several peer-reviewed publications, which led to her accepting a post-doctoral research fellow position in 2014 at the Eaton Peabody Laboratory and Harvard Medical School.

At Harvard, she worked under the guidance and mentorship of Professor Albert Edge. Here, she focused her research on the epigenetic and transcriptional mechanisms that guide hair cell differentiation and regeneration. Research from this project resulted in the filing of a US patent and several publications. Following her 4-year stint in Boston, she returned to Melbourne and joined the Bionics Institute to continue her research in auditory neuroscience.  Dr Gunewardene’s main research interests are to investigate the molecular signalling pathways governing inner ear cell fate specification and develop strategies to regenerate the sensory cells of the deaf mammalian cochlea.

Research interests

  • Epigenetic regulation of hair cell differentiation
  • Drug delivery strategies into the inner ear
  • Gene therapy for hair cell regeneration
  • Stem cell therapy for auditory neuron replacement

Selected publications

  • Gunewardene N*, Lenz DR*, Abdul-Aziz DE, Wang Q, Gibson TM, Edge ASB (2019). Applications of Lgr5-positive cochlear progenitors (LCPs) to the study of hair cell differentiation. Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology, ePub ahead of print.
  • Gunewardene N, Crombie D, Dottori M, Nayagam BA. (2016). Innervation of cochlear hair cells by human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived neurons in vitro. Stem Cells International, Volume 2016, Article ID 1781202, 10 pages, 2016. doi:10.1155/2016/1781202
  • Gunewardene N, Van Bergen N, Needham K, Crombie D, Dottori M, Nayagam BA. (2014). “Directing human induced pluripotent stem cells into a neurosensory lineage for auditory neuron replacement” BioResearch Open Access, Volume 3, Issue 4, Page 162-175.
  • Needham, K, Hyakumura, T*, Gunewardene, N*, Dottori, M and Nayagam, BA. (2014). “Electrophysiological properties of neurosensory progenitors derived from human embryonic stem cells.” Stem cell Research, Volume 12, Issue 1, Page 241-249.
  • Gunewardene, N, Guo, XC, Wong, YCA, Thorne, RP, Vlajkovic, MS (2013). “Adenosine Amine Congener Ameliorates Cisplatin-Induced Hearing Loss.” World Journal of Otorhinolaryngology, Volume 3, Issue 3, Page 100-107.
  • Gunewardene N, Dottori M, Nayagam BA. (2012). The convergence of cochlear implantation with induced pluripotent stem cell therapy. Stem Cells Reviews and Reports, Volume 8, Issue 3, Page 741-754.
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