Medical Student’s Research on Deafness Garners Award

April 24, 2008

A medical student’s research investigating a potential new way to treat age-related hearing loss has been recognized by experts around the nation.

The Association for Research in Otolaryngology awarded Glenn Schneider a fellowship to cover the cost of travel and related expenses so he could present the results of his research project to colleagues at the organization’s annual meeting in Phoenix, Ariz.

Schneider is looking at the potential of replenishing our natural anti-oxidants in the inner ear as a way to protect our cells against the damage that occurs in nearly everyone as we get older. As the years pass, the levels of those protective compounds in the ear diminish, and many scientists believe that boosting their levels can help people keep their hearing as we age. Schneider has preliminary evidence that boosting levels of an anti-oxidant known as glutathione peroxidase helps protect key cells involved in hearing, known as hair cells, from damage.

“Gene therapy won’t be a treatment for hearing loss immediately, but it’s very promising,” said Robert D. Frisina, Ph.D., Schneider’s adviser and professor of Otolaryngology. Frisina helps direct the International Center for Hearing and Speech Research, which is based both at the Medical Center and at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. It’s one of the largest research groups in the world devoted to studying, and preventing, the problem of hearing loss as we get older.

The research is part of Schneider’s work toward his master’s degree in Neurobiology and Anatomy. Next year he’ll resume medical school as a fourth-year student.

“I’m curious about how all this knowledge we use in medicine is generated. I wanted to experience medical research for myself and try to bridge the care of patients with laboratory science,” said Schneider, who worked on a research project involving voice and sound as an undergraduate at Cornell University before coming to Rochester.

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