Collaboration accelerates research into the inner ear, for new and improved treatments of disorders

Associate Professor Bryony Nayagam will collaborate with new academic and industry partners, to further research into hearing and balance and advance the development of effective treatments for their disorders. Currently, there are limited therapies for inner ear disorders.

Academic partnerships

Associate Professor Bryony Nayagam heads the Hearing and Stem Cells Laboratory at the Melbourne School of Health Sciences. Bryony will work with A/Professor Alain Dabdoub, Research Director of the Hearing Regeneration Initiative at Sunnybrook Research Institute in Toronto, on a project titled “Using human inner ear organs to develop new regenerative therapies for hearing and balance disorders.”

The multidisciplinary, cross-institutional research will combine unique expertise to study inner ear development, discover genes and develop a 3D-culture system.

Through partnering with experts in developmental biology, neuroscience, cellular identity and computational biology, the team aim to understand the genetic and epigenetic landscape of the hearing and balance organs. Bioinformatics analyses will inform the design of novel biological therapies to treat inner ear disorders.

The collaboration’s long-term goal is the development of human inner ear organoids, to provide a 3D high-throughput screening (HTS) platform for future gene therapy and drug discovery, opening a new way of looking at the regulation of inner ear genes and refining precision medicine.

The project has transformative potential and translational impact on treating inner ear disorders and advancing knowledge in the field of human biology.

The collaboration was initiated and coordinated by recent doctoral graduate, Dr Jacqueline Ogier, who was supervised by A/Professors Bryony Nayagam and Paul Lockhart, from the Murdoch Children's Research Institute. The grant will facilitate the training of the next generation of researchers in this field including post-doctoral researchers Serena Viventi and Emilia Luca and medical student Daniel Nouri Nejad, through joint data analysis and lab visits to each of the partner universities. Dr Ogier will soon commence post-doctoral training in the Dabdoub Laboratory where she will be learning new research techniques and broadening her research network whilst maintaining contacts with the Melbourne labs.

Industry partnerships

Associate Professor Nayagam has also been successful in securing funding with interstate collaborators and industry partners.

Through an Australian Research Council Linkage Project led by Professor Laura Poole-Warren at the University of New South Wales, and including long-term collaborator A/Professor Mirella Dottori at the University of Wollongong, the team will work with Cochlear to understand platinum dissolution in biomedical stimulating electrodes.

Platinum is the main material used in electrodes for neurostimulators like the cochlear implant. However, platinum electrodes can experience dissolution, that is, they can dissolve during implantation, which can impact on their function. The mechanisms governing this dissolution process are complex and still not fully understood.

This collaborative research aims to understand the chemical, electrical and biological factors that impact on platinum dissolution in electrodes. It will also develop new 3D models to simulate conditions in the human body for more rapid testing of electrodes.

The new knowledge generated will improve the accuracy of predictions of platinum dissolution, develop new approaches for minimising dissolution, and contribute to reducing need for animal experimentation.

Congratulations Bryony!

Associate Professor Bryony Nayagam is a member of the Centre for Stem Cell Systems and conducts research under the Stem Cells and Engineering research theme.

Article written by Helen Flett

More Information

A/Prof Bryony Nayagam