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GEN’s editorial staff interviews life science academic and biotech industry leaders on important research, technology, and trends. These podcasts will keep you informed with all the important details you need.

Researchers at the University of Virginia Health System have discovered a way to transfer genes, which they hope will restore hearing into diseased tissue of the human inner ear. Dr. Jeffrey Holt and his team targeted a gene known as KCNQ4, which causes genetic hearing loss in humans when mutated. They engineered a correct form of the gene and created a gene therapy delivery system that successfully transferred the KCNQ4 gene into human hair cells harvested from the inner ears of patients with hearing loss.

During this week's podcast Dr. Holt describes what his in vitro model system was able to demonstrate. He also talks about the major causes of inner ear organ dysfunction and why the human inner ear is a good candidate for gene therapy. In addition, Dr. Holt explains why adenoviral transfection was the method of choice for delivering the gene.

Dr. Holt discusses how his previous work on the development of hair cells develop in mouse embryos helped his current studies and provides details on his team's plans for further research directed at restoring hearing.

Listen to the podcast then return to the blog and give us you thoughts on the following question:

In addition to the gene delivery approach taken by Dr. Holt and his team to try to restore hearing loss in humans, can you think of any other approaches based on molecular biology and gene therapy that might be suitable for restoring hearing?

Or, if you prefer, post your own topic on the biotech industry subject of your choice. Please share your opinions and observations.
Dr. Holt received his doctorate from the Department of Physiology at the University of Rochester in 1995. For his thesis work he studied inward rectifier potassium currents in saccular hair cells in Ruth Anne Eatock's lab. He went on to a post-doctoral position with David Corey in the Neurobiology Department at Harvard Medical School. While there Dr. Holt characterized transduction and adaptation in utricle hair cells; developed an adenoviral vector system to transfect cultured hair cells, and along with collaborators identified Myosin Ic as a component of the hair cell adaptation motor. Dr. Holt moved to the University of Virginia in October, 2001 to set up his own lab. As an Associate Professor in the Neuroscience Department at UVa, he is involved with graduate student and medical student teaching; He is a member of the Neuroscience Graduate Program and principal investigator (PI) for his lab. As PI he rights grants and manuscripts for publication, supervises and mentors lab members, and makes time to work on his own research project. Dr. Holt is currently working on two projects: 1) investigating the function of potassium channels in hair cells using adenoviral vectors to deliver wild-type and mutant channel genes and 2) interested in identifying the genes and proteins that are required for hair cell mechanotransduction.

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