(1) Stanford University: Alan Cheng, M.D. (Principal Investigator, Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery) & Stefan Heller, Ph.D. (Collaborating Investigator, Director of Research; Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery).
Title: “Characterization of hair cell progenitors from cochlea- and iPS derived cells”
Description: This project aims to use genetic methodologies to increase the in vitro population of special cochlear cells from a mouse model that were previously discovered to have the potential to differentiate into auditory hair cells. (These cells are termed Lgr5-positive “targets” of the Wnt gene.) The newly created cells will be characterized and their behavior will be studied. The regenerative potential of the same type of cell derived from stem cells from human cochlear tissue will be also be studied. One reviewer commented, “The potential outcomes are critical steps toward succeeding in the hair cell/stem cell/progenitor cell approach for regeneration of hair cells and recovery, and are highly significant.”
(2) Purdue University: Donna M. Fekete, Ph.D. (Principal Investigator, Department of Biological Science); Medical University of South Carolina: Hainan Lang, M.D., Ph.D. (Collaborating Investigator, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine)
Title: “Rescuing a congenital form of progressive hearing loss in mice using viral gene transfer”
Description: This study seeks to test a potential genetic therapy for treatment of a form of dominant inherited progressive hearing loss. The scientists propose to develop a viral vector, a “construct” encoding genes to correct the deafness-causing mutation, which will be delivered by a special surgical procedure to the cochlea. Reviewers commented that the project “has the potential to be very high impact” and “could establish a method of therapy for this and other genetic disorders of hearing.”