Hertzano details hearing loss research

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Ronna P. Hertzano, MD, PhD, is dedicated to the development of therapies to prevent and treat genetic and acquired hearing loss. The task is daunting, with the World Health Organization reporting in March that 430 million people worldwide suffer from crippling hearing loss and that the number could reach 700 million by 2050.

“Hearing loss results from a variety of conditions, with noise and genetics playing a major role,” said Hertzano, professor in the department of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery, University of Maryland School. of Medicine (UMSOM), at its University of Maryland, Baltimore. (UMB) Presentation of the researcher of the year on October 27. “But our treatments for hearing loss today are based only on one thing: the extent of our hearing loss. If we have a little hearing loss – and it doesn’t matter whether it’s from aging, a genetic mutation, or an ototoxic drug – we’ll use a hearing aid. And if hearing aids aren’t enough to restore our ability to communicate with each other, then we’re going to use a cochlear implant.

“So there are two things we would like to accomplish in our research. We would like to find ways to regenerate hair cells – the sensory cells of the auditory system. And we would like to find ways to protect the ears from noise damage and aging. Wouldn’t it be great if our hearing at 70 could be the same as at 20? “

Hertzano, who holds a secondary position in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology at UMSOM and is an affiliate faculty member at UMSOM’s Institute for Genome Sciences (IGS), offered details about the ear , hearing loss, and her lab’s research and collaborations during a 40-minute presentation titled “From Ear to gEAR: A Multi-Omic Path Toward Therapeutics,” although she admitted that a better title would have could be “The Power of Collaboration and the Benefits of a Collaborative Research Community”.

Dean of UMSOM E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, spoke of the collaborative nature of Hertzano during his introduction in which he described her as “a surgeon and scientist with many years of serious and distinguished research who is one of the country’s leading academics and experts in the field of field of hearing loss “.

“Her clinical work focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of ear disease, with an emphasis on auditory restoration,” said Reece, who is also John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor, UMSOM, and executive director of medical affairs. , UMB. “Her goal as a researcher is to make a significant contribution to the treatment of the same conditions that she sees in her patients. His research work is groundbreaking, as evidenced by his active grant portfolio, which stands at $ 11 million in extramural funds to date.

“I often quote the African proverb which says: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. This is Dr. Hertzano. She goes with the others and, therefore, she goes far, ”he added. “She collaborates regularly and naturally through the School of Medicine with thoughtfulness, generosity and support.”

The Researcher of the Year presentation was a hybrid event this year, with Hertzano’s talk being broadcast live as she spoke to a small audience at Health Sciences Research Facility III, which included Reece, President of UMB . Bruce E. Jarrell, MD, FACS, family members and colleagues. The annual event is part of the UMB Founders’ Week celebration.

Using a series of PowerPoint slides, Hertzano described how his lab set out to study the coordinated regulation of gene expression in cell types in the inner ear to understand the molecular programs that govern development. and the functioning of the inner ear. Part of the work involves participation in the Hearing Restoration Project, an international consortium dedicated to advancing hair cell regeneration in the human ear, funded by the Hearing Health Foundation.

On another front, Hertzano and colleagues set out to map the molecular changes that occur after exposure to noise with the aim of identifying drugs that could be reused to prevent noise-induced hearing loss. The main drug candidate turned out to be metformin, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1994 to treat diabetes.

“It’s an old drug, it’s cheap, it’s not patented, it’s well tolerated, and for people without diabetes, it doesn’t cause hypoglycemia,” said Hertzano, who added that one of the resident physicians in his department, Catherine Kennedy, MD, takes the initiative to test the drug on mice. “This study is ongoing and we need to repeat it several times and extend it to female mice, but the results so far are very promising.”

Hertzano also mentioned the gEAR (gene Expression Analysis Resource, umgear.org), an online tool developed with colleagues at the IGS that could more rapidly advance medical discoveries designed to reverse progressive hearing loss. The tool provides easy access to genetic and other molecular data from hundreds of technical research studies involving auditory function and the ear, allows researchers to quickly access data, and provides easily interpreted visualizations of sets of data.

In conclusion, Hertzano thanked Reece and the current and former chairs of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery – Rodney Taylor, MD, MSPH, and Scott Strome, MD, respectively – for their support of his work, as well as Claire Fraser, Ph.D., full professor of the dean of the UMSOM and executive director of the IGS.


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