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June 19, 2012

Tinnitus Therapy the Focus of SIU Med School Federal Grant


A group of research scientists at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield have been awarded a three-year federal grant to study a specific brain chemical and its receptor that could provide a new drug target for the treatment of tinnitus, also known as ringing in the ears.

The award is from the Office of Naval Research and has a total budget of $942,493. Donald M. Caspary, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology and an SIUC distinguished scholar, is the principal investigator for the project.

Nearly 36 million Americans suffer from tinnitus, which is most commonly caused by noise exposure. The military working environment presents many challenging high-noise situations. Noise-related hearing loss and tinnitus are the largest area of disability compensation by the Veteran’s Administration.

This study will investigate a brain chemical (GABA) and a receptor protein (GABA receptor) in the auditory thalamus of the brain. The new GABA receptor subtype could potentially serve as a new target for tinnitus drug therapy.

A set of studies will compare control animal models with those showing behavioral evidence of tinnitus by examining tinnitus-related changes in the inhibitory systems of the auditory thalamus. The ability of certain drugs to block tinnitus will be tested to identify a clinically new drug to alleviate tinnitus.

Co-principal investigators are Thomas J. Brozoski, Ph.D., professor of surgery, and Jeremy G. Turner, Ph.D., part-time associate professor in surgery, and Evgeny Sametskiy, Ph.D., research assistant professor of pharmacology. Boris Odintsov, Ph.D., senior research scientist at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Beckman Institute, is a consultant to the project and Lynne Ling, of SIU pharmacology, is laboratory manager.

Caspary’s research has been funded for more than 30 years by the National Institute of Health and other agencies. His research funding at SIU has totaled more than $8.5 million.

Caspary joined the SIU faculty in 1973. He earned his doctoral degree in neurobiology at New York University (1971) and completed a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellowship at the State University of New York (1972). He earned his master’s at Syracuse University (1968) and his bachelor’s at the University of Wisconsin (1965).

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