2013 AHRF Research Grant Awards

We asked our 2013 AHRF researchers to provide some information about the scientific productivity and knowledge that emerged from their research grants by providing an assessment of the impact the grants may have had on their scientific career advancement, or if the grants helped to develop skills in young researchers.  We would like to share their stories as to how scientific research also advances the important human elements of discovery and working together towards common goals.

Project title: Mechanism of cochlear fibrosis following cochlear electrode implantation trauma
Esperanza Bas Infante, PharmD, PhD – University of Miami Ear Institute, Miami, FL

The main aim of this AHRF research grant was to gain insight into the molecular mechanism of fibrotic tissue and bone formation that can occur following electrode insertion trauma (EIT) in a mouse model of cochlear implantation trauma. The translational aspect of the project is to target the mediators involved in fibrogenesis after an EIT event to reduce the formation of scar tissue deposition around the CI electrode, which can ultimately improve the hearing perception of implanted patients and their quality of life.

The results obtained from this project confirm cooperation between Transforming Growth Factor- beta and Wnt/beta-catenin pathways that influence the induction of fibrosis and neo-osteogenesis within implanted cochleae. The activation of these pathways lead to the modulation of certain genes involved in cell- cell interactions, cell growth, cell to cell adhesion, migration and differentiation of cells to form fibrotic tissue and new bone. At early stages we observed infiltration of monocytes into the wounded area. Macroscopic and microscopic images of the implanted ears at 1 month post-surgery show new tissue growth in the area were the electrode was inserted. We are excited with these results because it provides important baseline information that can be applied to the screening of new and novel drug therapies that can be applied to the cochlea during the implantation and help to control the growth of fibrotic tissue and new bone around the electrode array.

Some of the results obtained from this project have been presented in international meetings such as:
Esperanza Bas, Yamil Selman, Bradley Goldstein, Chhavi Gupta, Adrien Eshraghi and Thomas R. Van De Water. Cochlear electrode implantation trauma causes over-expression of TGF-β1 and activation of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway in an in vitro model. Association for Research in Otolayngology. Baltimore, MD, USA, 2013.

Esperanza Bas, Yamil Selman, Bradley Goldstein, Chhavi Gupta, Adrien Eshraghi and Thomas R. Van De Water. Electrode implantation trauma (EIT) initiates fibrosis by over-expression of TGF-β 1 and activation of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway in an in vitro model of cochlear implantation in an in vitro model. Experimental Biology. Boston, MA, USA, 2013, American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Travel Award Recipient.

Esperanza Bas, Chhavi Gupta, Adrien Eshraghi and Thomas R. Van De Water. Dexamethasone prevents electrode insertion trauma-initiated inflammatory response and fibrosis. Inner Ear Biology, Alcala de Henares, Madrid, Spain, 2013.

And will be presented at:
Esperanza Bas, Bradley Goldstein, Michelle Adams and Thomas R. Van De Water. Dexamethasone modulates the inflammatory and fibrogenic responses in cochlear tissue explants initiated by electrode insertion trauma. Association for Research in Otolayngology. San Diego, CA, USA, 2014.

This grant also gave Michelle Adams, a student who will be graduating with a Baccalaureate Degree in Exercise Science with a pre-med track and invited to the Honor’s College at FIU, an opportunity of getting introduced into this field of research. Michelle rapidly learned different research techniques and actively participated in the execution of this project. Ms. Adams is excited to come back to the lab during her summer break and she stated that due to her experience with this research project, she would like to become an ENT doctor and also continue to pursue translational science in the lab.

Project Title: Video Games as an Alternative to Traditional Auditory Training After Hearing Loss
Noah Ledbetter, PhD – Department of Biomedical Engineering, Washington University, St. Louis, MO

This has been an exciting project for both the professors and the graduate students involved due to the high level of professional interest in these games and their potential to influence hearing health. Because of the work made possible by the grant, we have had the opportunity to present these ideas at several public events. We have received enthusiastic feedback about the entertainment value of our games as well as their scientific and diagnostic applications.

We are currently cultivating relationships with business and clinical professionals about the potential expansion of the ideas funded by this grant. In conjunction with audiologists based at the Central Institute for the Deaf, we have begun collecting data from a group of hearing impaired subjects to demonstrate efficacy of game-based auditory training for future publication. Additionally, we are collecting data from normal hearing listeners in partnership with the Psychology department at Washington University in St. Louis.

We have presented this work at the Entertainment Software and Cognitive Neurotherapeutics Society 2013 annual meeting (Training the Brain with Auditory Games), and will be presenting at the Association for Research in Otolaryngology 2014 annual meeting (Auditory Games as a Novel Tool for Aural Rehabilitation).

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