Ototoxicity Research Program

The primary theme of this research team is prevention of acquired hearing loss. Age, drugs, and noise can all induce pathological changes in the inner ear, and accompanying hearing loss. From a pathophysiological standpoint, each of these environmental insults acts on free-radical mediated oxidative stress pathways; these same oxidative stress pathways are likely to be influenced by diet and nutritional status. Thus, population-level variability in risk of auditory disease that is developed in response to environmental noise and/or chemical exposures may be at least partially attributable to unmeasured variation in nutritional status and/or other components of the diet. A major theme in ongoing research activities is the use of high-dose nutrient supplements to prevent acquired hearing loss. Pre and post-noise treatment with dietary micronutrients, including beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, and magnesium, significantly reduces noise-induced hearing loss in guinea pigs exposed to loud sound. New studies by members of this group have identified specific mechanisms of action through which these nutrients mediate noise-induced cell death and hearing loss, and new data show that protection is not limited to noise insult. Other new studies have the goal of translation of this therapeutic intervention to man, with demonstration of efficacy in human clinical trials. This is an international effort, and includes coordinated efforts at the University of Michigan, University of Florida, Southern Illinois University, Harvard University, the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden in partnership with the Swedish military, Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha in partnership with Los Llanos airbase, Solemat (a Spanish health care provider) and Arcos (a consortium of stamping factories in Spain), and a commercial partner: Hearing Health Science., a biotechnology company founded in Ann Arbor, Michigan, 2010.