Clinical Studies

Creating Cellular Models of Human Sensorineural Hearing Loss from Blood or Skin

Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) is the most common sensory deficit worldwide and the most common congenital anomaly in the United States. Yet drug and biological treatments for SNHL are virtually non-existent. A part of the reason for this problem is the current inability to biopsy the human inner ear because the organ is small and delicate. To overcome this problem, we are making human inner ears “in a dish”, from stem cells. We start with patients’ blood or skin cells, induce them into stem cells, then convert these cells into inner ear cells and organoids. We aim to use these inner ear cells to better understand molecular mechanisms of hearing loss, for screening of drugs and novel therapeutics that may be helpful to a given individual, and for therapy. Ultimately, our vision is for a future in which therapies for hearing loss can be individualized based on each patient’s unique cellular signature.

Understanding Pathobiology of Vestibular Schwannoma/ Acoustic Neuroma

Vestibular schwannoma (VS), also known as acoustic neuroma, is an intracranial tumor that typically arises from a vestibular or balance nerve. Vestibular nerves, along with the adjacent auditory nerve, are the main link between the inner ear and the brain. Existing treatment options for a growing VS include surgery and radiation, with no approved drug therapies. The purpose of this study is to improve understanding of the cellular, molecular, and genetic basis of VS through the scientific study of patients’ blood, schwannoma cells, and other cell types derived from collected tumor tissue compared to healthy tissue. We hope that insights from these studies will help us identify new biomarkers and pharmacological strategies to better diagnose and treat VS.

Identifying Mechanisms of COVID-19-related hearing loss, tinnitus, and dizziness

We have recently shown that the virus that causes COVID-19, called SARS-CoV-2, can directly infect the human inner ear. This study provides an explanation for hearing loss, tinnitus, and dizziness experienced by some patients with COVID-19. The purpose of the current study is to better understand the mechanisms underlying COVID-related auditory and vestibular dysfunction by collecting patients’ blood or inner ear tissue. The ultimate goal is to develop better strategies to prevent and treat COVID-related hearing loss, tinnitus, and vertigo.

Validation of Novel Imaging Methods for Localization for Cholesteatoma

Cholesteatomas are an abnormal collection of skin cells inside the middle ear that can develop following chronic ear infections. The only definitive treatment for cholesteatoma is surgical resection. However, if a cholesteatoma is not completely removed, there is a high chance for recurrence, which requires repeat surgical procedures. The purpose of this study is to develop a new intra-operative imaging technique to allow for precise localization of cholesteatoma tissue in real-time during surgery. Such an approach would allow for more complete removal of cholesteatoma tissue during the first surgery, thereby reducing or eliminating the risk for recurrence and revision surgeries.

Prospective, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Phase II Clinical Trial of Aspirin for Patients with Vestibular Schwannoma

This phase II clinical trial studies how well aspirin works for slowing or preventing the growth of vestibular schwannoma (VS), also known as acoustic neuroma, which is a benign tumor of the main nerve between the inner ear and brain. Aspirin is an FDA-approved treatment for pain, fever, and inflammation, but has not been approved for the treatment of VS. Previous research has shown that inflammation may play a role in VS progression, and early studies have supported the effect of aspirin in slowing VS growth. If proven to be effective, aspirin could be an alternative non-surgical treatment for patients.