Receives Nearly $3 Million To Study How Cells Used In
Hearing, Taste And Smell Develop, Regenerate
5, 1999 -- University of Virginia scientists have
received nearly $3 million to collaborate on research that may enhance
people's ability to smell, taste and hear again after injury.
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
at the National Institutes of Health has awarded U.Va. a program
project grant of approximately $2.8 million to explore the development
and regeneration of peripheral sensory receptor cells in the olfactory,
auditory and gustatory systems. Peripheral sensory receptor cells
are living sensors that send signals to the brain when they are
five-year grant funds research projects in U.Va.'s College of Arts
and Sciences and School of Medicine and Washington University's
School of Medicine. The grant will support three teams of psychologists,
biologists, otolaryngologists and neuroscientists in coordinated
investigations that will focus on how sensory cells develop in embryos
and regenerate after injury.
principal investigator in the project is David L. Hill, a psychology
professor. Working with him are Peter C. Brunjes, psychology professor
and department chair; Robert M. Grainger, a biology professor; and
Jeffrey T. Corwin, professor of medicine in the otolaryngology department.
Also working with them is Mark E. Warchol, a former U.Va. researcher
who is now an assistant professor at Washington University's Central
Institute for the Deaf.
first project team, headed by Grainger and including Brunjes and
Corwin, will investigate the molecular and cellular processes that
control development of the organs for hearing, balance and smell
in embryos. By learning how the sensory structures within the ear
and nose develop, the scientists hope to gain an understanding of
the problems that lead to congenital defects. They also hope to
become knowledgeable about the developmental mechanisms that could
provide the basis for new treatments.
second project, led by Warchol and including Hill, will investigate
the role the immune system may play in regenerating sensory hair
cells, which convert sound waves into electrical signals that the
brain decodes. Mammals have long been thought to lack the capacity
to regenerate hearing
and balance hair cells that can be injured by such factors as loud
noises, infections and high doses of some antibiotics.
third project, headed by Hill and including Warchol, will examine
the regeneration of taste receptor cells after nerve injury. Unlike
auditory hair cells, taste cells in mammals can regenerate easily.
By understanding the biological mechanisms involved in the regeneration
of taste receptor cells, the scientists hope to gain clues that
could help them stimulate regeneration in sensory organs that don't
normally have that ability. Hill's team will also investigate the
role diet plays in the ability to regenerate taste receptor cells
and how such cells respond to taste stimuli.
grant shows our University-wide strength in neuroscience, which
is fully expressed through campus-wide collaboration," said Dr.
Robert M. Carey, dean of the School of Medicine.
is a terrific chance for some of our best scientists to engage graduate
students and post-docs in cutting-edge research," noted Melvyn Leffler,
dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
National Institutes of Health created the program project grants
to encourage collaboration among scientists. The U.Va. and Washington
University scientists, who have been working together informally,
expect the grant will support a more focused pooling of expertise.
grant will serve as the mechanism to make the sum of our research
efforts greater than the individual parts," said Hill. "This is
a natural fit for us. We have diverse expertise, but a mutual interest
in sensory development and regeneration."
grant will support numerous ways for the scientists to share their
work. The U.Va. teams will meet regularly to discuss the progress
and direction of each project. An external review committee, composed
of scientists from throughout the nation, will advise the researchers
on their work during annual meetings. In addition, an internal review
committee consisting of experts on the U.Va. faculty will meet periodically
to discuss the research and help plan its future direction.
more information, contact: David Hill, (804) 982-4728 or via firstname.lastname@example.org;
Peter Brunjes, (804) 924-0687 or email@example.com; Jeffrey Corwin
at (804) 924-1568 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or Robert Grainger at
(804) 982-5495 or email@example.com.
Ida Lee Wootten, (804) 924-6857.