NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA — A researcher at Tulane University has been awarded a $1.8 million grant to “develop a better understanding of healthy human hearing and lay the groundwork for future treatment of hearing disorders”.
The five-year grant from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) will allow Tulane assistant professor of cell and molecular biology, Hai Huang, Ph.D., to investigate how auditory signals are processed with normal hearing and when altered during hearing loss.
According to the press release, Dr. Huang and his team will use hearing-impaired and normal-hearing mice to study auditory information processing at the synapse level. Synapse is a junction between two nerve cells, consisting of a pre-synaptic component that releases the neurotransmitter and postsynaptic component that detects the neurotransmitter.
Much of the existing research has focused primarily on the postsynaptic site, due to the small size of the presynaptic terminals. However, Dr. Huang’s research into the calyx of Held synapse, (which is a particularly large synapse) will allow for direct recordings at the presynaptic terminal.
“The presynaptic change is poorly understood. We will test how hearing loss affects vesicle loading, release and recycling. The project aims to understand the synaptic mechanisms that support the highly reliable synaptic transmission at auditory synapses at normal hearing and during hearing loss.”
–Hai Huang, Ph.D.
Dr. Huang said he hopes the study will help lay a groundwork for future treatment strategies of hearing disorders.
Source: Tulane University