AHRF awards grants to seven hearing research teams in 2024

2024 AHRF Grant Recipients, clockwise from bottom left: Samuel Mathias, Sangamanatha Ankmnal Veeranna, Joaquin Cury Sr., Akihiro Matsuoka and team member Analia Quirk, Pei-Ciao Tang, Litao Tao, and (center) team member Daniel Romano, MD; advisor Richard A. Chole, MD, PhD; and PI Keiko Hirose, MD

Elmhurst, Illinois – January 15, 2024 – The American Hearing Research Foundation (AHRF) announced the recipients of its 2024 research grants today. AHRF will award seven grants totaling just over $358,000 to investigators who are exploring how we hear and how we lose hearing and balance function. Headquartered in the Chicago western suburb of Elmhurst, AHRF has a 68-year history of supporting hearing research at institutions across the U.S.

AHRF Board Director Donna Whitlon, PhD, is Chair of AHRF’s Research Committee. She notes, “This year, we were able to fund the top 16% of the submitted proposals. The funded work encompasses exciting state-of-the art projects ranging from basic science to studies involving humans. The Birtman Grant  – AHRF’s top award – supports a project that will use a novel approach to identify pieces of DNA called “enhancers”; enhancers can alter the way cochlear hair cell genes function in normal and pathological development. The Richard G. Muench Chairman’s Grant was awarded to a study of cholesteatoma, which are potentially damaging cysts that occur in the ear. This project will analyze RNA from the patients’ surgical tissue to understand why cells develop into these cysts and may recur in children.”

Other grant recipients are developing new cellular and physical technologies. Some aim to improve research in areas of Meniere’s disease or the way we understand the embryonic development of the cochlea. One investigator will evaluate a prototype “nano-camera” to visualize the cochlea during cochlear implantation surgery so remaining hearing can be preserved.

AHRF is supporting studies with human participants as well. One will explore early warning signs predicting age-related hearing loss. Another will evaluate hearing in university marching band students; this study’s goal is to acquire information to help implement a hearing conservation program.

Whitlon concludes, “As always, we recognize the driving force of our donors whose generosity allows us to jump-start new projects and take advantage of new ideas in research and treatment for hearing and balance.”

Seven investigators explore diverse and important hearing topics

The 2024 grant recipients and their projects are:

  • Birtman Grant – $75,000.  Litao Tao, PhD; Creighton University; High-throughput and quantitative measurement of hair cell distal enhancers
  •  Richard G. Muench Chairman Grant – $65,000.  Keiko Hirose, PhD; Washington University in St. Louis; Revealing molecular and cellular drivers of cholesteatoma pathogenesis and recurrence in children using single-cell RNA sequencing

 AHRF Discovery Grants – up to $50,000

  • Sangamanatha Ankmnal Veeranna, PhD, The University of Southern Mississippi; Auditory System Integrity in University Marching Band Students
  • Joaquin Cury, Sr., PhD, Northwestern University; Design, Development, and Implementation of an Optical System to Preserve Residual Hearing and Evaluate Cochlear Health in Patients Receiving a Cochlear Implant
  • Samuel Mathias, PhD, Boston Children’s Hospital; Early Warning Signs of Age-Related Sensorineural Hearing Loss
  • Akihiro J. Matsuoka, MD, DMSc, PhD, University of California San Diego; Regenerating the Blood-Labyrinthine Barrier: Harnessing Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells for Ménière’s Disease Treatment
  • Pei-Ciao Tang, PhD, University of Miami; Development of an ‘organoid-on-a-chip’ platform for the study of dorso-ventral patterning in a stem cell model of the human inner ear

About AHRF

In her professional life, Donna Whitlon is a Research Professor in the Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery Department at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. She has served in a volunteer capacity as AHRF’s Research Committee Chair since 2019.

The American Hearing Research Foundation is a nonprofit organization that has been making new discoveries possible for 68 years by funding novel research to better understand and overcome hearing and balance disorders. In the last 10 years, the organization has funded 88 projects with over $2.6 million in research grants.

For more information on AHRF, visit www.American-Hearing.org. Donations for research funding can be made online.

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American Hearing Research Foundation

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