Research Fellows Directory
Professor Guy Richardson
University of Sussex
My research is focussed on the cellular and molecular basis of hearing and deafness. I am interested in how the cochlea works and the causes of sensorineural hearing loss. I am concentrating on two components of the inner ear, on the mechanosensory hair cells and a strip of extracellular matrix known as the tectorial membrane. The hair cells convert the sounds around us into the electrical signals that we perceive, for example, as speech or music, and the tectorial membrane is a structure that sits on top of the hair cells and allows them to respond optimally to the incoming stimuli. Many of the mutations that cause human hereditary hearing loss affect the structure and function of either the hair cells or the tectorial membrane. The hair cells are also uniquely sensitive to the unwanted side effects of at least two types of medicine, the aminoglycoside antibiotics and the anti-cancer reagent cisplatin. Furthermore, the gradual loss of hair cells and slow degradation of the tectorial membrane may also underlie many, but not all, cases of age-related hearing loss, a problem that affects a large proportion of the ageing population and can lead to social isolation and depression. By fully understanding the causes of deafness, we may eventually be able to prevent or reverse hearing loss. The science involves making bona fide animal models for studying the effects of mutations that cause deafness in the human population, and developing in vitro assays that will allow us to identify compounds that will protect hair cells from the ototoxic side effects of cisplatin and the aminoglycoside antibiotics. We use transgenically engineered mice to produce the mouse models for human hereditary deafness, and mouse cochlear cultures to screen for potential oto-protective drugs. The potential benefits are a greater understanding of the mechanisms of hearing and the causes of deafness, a cures for age and drug-related forms of deafness.
Interests and expertise (Subject groups)