Prof. Daniel Bodmer is the Chair of the Inner Ear Research Laboratory and the Clinic for Otolaryngology at the University Hospital Basel.
Hearing loss has a huge impact on the affected individual as well as on our society. Not only is one baby out of 1000 born with hearing loss, but also more than 50% of people older than 65 years suffer from hearing loss. Hearing loss of adult onset is one of the ten leading causes of disability-adjusted life years globally. It is estimated that 278 million persons worldwide suffer from disabling hearing loss (two-thirds of whom reside in developing countries). The impact of hearing loss on health care costs will very likely increase in the future, considering the envisaged improvement in life expectancy.
The degeneration of inner ear sensory cells located in the cochlea, known as hair cells underlies most forms of sensorineural hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss is difficult to treat, since it creates both loss of sensitivity and distortion. While hearing aids can increase sensitivity, they often do not overcome the distortion of sound caused by loss of hair cells. Therefore, in order to pave the road for new prophylactic and therapeutic approaches for sensorineural hearing loss, it is essential to thoroughly investigate molecular events involved in hair cell damage and death. Once we understand these molecular events we might try to block apoptosis signalling pathways while enhancing cell survival pathways; this will lead to enhanced hair cell survival.
During the last few years, our research has been centered on the molecular mechanisms involved in hair cell damage and death. It has been demonstrated that signaling pathways exist that promote hair cell death and, interestingly, it has also been shown that there are opposing pathways that promote hair cell survival. Different molecules have been found that influence these pathways, among them inhibitors of the JNK signaling pathway, inhibitors of apoptosis, erythropoietin, somatostatin and octreotide which bind to the somatostatin receptor. Also the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (pi3k) /Akt pathway and its role in hair cell death and survival has been studied in detail. Lately, we have founded a spin off company (Strekin AG, Basel) to explore pioglitazone and its effect on auditory hair cells. Currently, Strekin is running a clinical phase 2 study to investigate whether pioglitazone can protect residual hearing during cochlea implant surgery.
For detail and recent publications: https://biomedizin.unibas.ch/en/research/research-groups/bodmer-lab/