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NIH grant to help School of Dentistry researchers look at potential treatments for hearing loss

Two Creighton University School of Dentistry researchers have been awarded a National Institutes of Health grant to explore cell processes in the inner ears of mice that may prove beneficial in treating human hearing loss.

Michael Weston, Ph.D., and Sonia Rocha-Sanchez, Ph.D., both professors in the Department of Oral Biology, have earned the three-year, $436,550 grant to study the effects of small noncoding RNAs on the forced generation of sensory cells in the mouse inner ear with the goal of improving the process of cell renewal as a way to treat human hearing loss.

“This study will provide important scientific insights that could translate into future medical treatments for human hearing loss diseases,” said Weston, principal investigator on the grant.

In June 2015, Rocha-Sanchez also earned a grant from NIH to study related processes in the mouse inner ear and to work on controlling gene expression to aid in the regeneration of new inner-ear hair cells. All mammals, including mice and humans, are born with a finite number of sensory hair cells in the inner ear and, when those cells are lost, they do not regenerate. Damage to and death of such cells is a prime cause of hearing loss.

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