Note to the editors: May is National Hearing and Speech Month.
New insights into therapeutics that can be used to prevent or treathearing loss could result from research being done at Oberlin College byAssistant Professor of Neuroscience Lynne Bianchi.
Dr. Bianchi is investigating how a group of proteins called the "Eph"family (from erythropoietin heptocellular carcinoma, where the firstmolecule was discovered) influence a very specific neuronal cellculture-the outgrowth of neuronal processes during the critical periodof embryonic development when the nerves necessary for receiving soundinformation and sending it to the brain are formed. Dr. Bianchi'sresearch is assisted by junior biology major Tatsuhiko Kawaguchi ofJapan.
After first determining that Eph molecules are expressed in thedeveloping inner ear, Dr. Bianchi is now trying to learn what functionsthey might have. Based upon her discoveries thus far, it appears thatEph molecules might be key players in guiding early nerve fibers to theinner ear, reorganizing or maintaining synaptic contacts, or both.Several molecules are located in regions of the inner ear that suggestthey play a role in forming the inner ear itself.
Eph molecules, says Dr. Bianchi, were first discovered to be a familyfour to five years ago: "The first receptor was cloned in 1987, but itwasn't until later that the ligands were discovered and people realizedit was a family." The Eph molecules appear to play critical roles intissue segmentation, cell migration and axonal (nerve fiber) outgrowth.A recent grant from the Deafness Research Foundation is funding Dr.Bianchi's investigation into whether Eph molecules form differentregions of the inner ear early in development by providing cues tosegregate the different cellular components of the inner ear.
Support for Dr. Bianchi's work is also made possible by a grant from theNational Institutes of Health/National Institute of Deafness and otherCommunicative Disorders.
Science at Oberlin College is supported by an outstanding faculty,extensive course offerings, laboratories equipped with some of the mostsophisticated instrumentation available, and numerous opportunities forstudent research, including individual research projects and frequentcollaboration with faculty members on their research projects. Since1920, more Oberlin graduates have earned Ph.D. degrees than havegraduates of any other independent, primarily undergraduateinstitution-by a nearly 2 to 1 margin.
The above story is based on materials provided by Oberlin College. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
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