SIU Med School Receives Federal Grant to Study Hearing Protection


September 21, 2012

SIU Med School Receives Federal Grant to Study Hearing Protection

A physician at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield has been awarded a five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study mechanisms of cochlear oxidative stress injury and strategies to protect hearing. The total budget for the grant is $1.2 million.

Dr. Michael J. Brenner, director of facial plastic and reconstructive surgery and assistant professor of otolaryngology, head and neck surgery SIU, is the recipient of this Mentored Clinical Scientist Development Award (K08) and principal investigator for the project.

Brenner will investigate the molecular basis for hearing loss and pilot innovative strategies for hearing protection. The research team has previously shown that the presence of free radicals and reactive oxygen species within the ear can lead to cellular stress and cell injury. The researchers will now study how targeted interference with key biochemical pathways can be used to prevent hearing loss. The research uses innovative therapeutic agents to decrease free radicals and oxidative stress within the ear.

This project will help scientists understand how antibiotics used for treating life-threatening infections can harm hearing and how such injury may be prevented. These approaches may protect hearing by decreasing inflammation and interfering with cell death pathways.

Brenner is being co-mentored by Dr. Leonard Rybak, Ph.D., professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at SIU, Kathleen C.M. Campbell, Ph.D., professor of otolaryngology and director of the division’s audiology research and Vickram Ramkumar, Ph.D., associate professor of pharmacology. Debashree Mukherjea, Ph.D., assistant professor of surgery at SIU, has collaborated with Brenner extensively since the inception of this research program. 

“Hearing loss is the most pervasive occupational health problem in the United States today,” said Brenner. “Oxidative stress plays a substantial role in the genesis of noise-induced cochlear injury that causes permanent hearing loss. Furthermore, oxidative stress has bearing on a wide range of reconstructive challenges encountered in surgery.”

The award provides up to five years of support to receive mentored training in laboratory-based biomedical or behavioral research. K08 support develops the skills necessary to pursue independent clinical and/or translational research.

Brenner, a board certified facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon, is the president-elect of the Faculty Council at the SIU School of Medicine, chair of the Research Committee for the American Academy of Facial Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, and delegate to the American Medical Association. He has received several national distinctions for pioneering research on nerve regeneration. He also holds leadership positions in the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, American College of Surgeons and other professional societies. 

Brenner joined SIU’s faculty in 2008. He completed his facial plastic and reconstructive surgery fellowship at University of Minnesota (2008), his residency in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery in the Advanced Clinical Scholars Program, and a two-year plastic surgery research fellowship, both at Washington University Medical School in St. Louis (2007, 2003). He earned his medical degree through the Honors Program in Medical Education at Northwestern University in Chicago in 2000.

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