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      Dr Mark Rutherford

      Mark Rutherford is an Action on Hearing Loss-funded researcher at Washington University in St Louis, in the US. We awarded him an International Project Grant to investigate how some nerve cells in the inner ear are more susceptible to noise damage than others.

      Biography

      After obtaining a degree in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Missouri, Mark completed a PhD in Biology at the Institute of Neuroscience, University of Oregon, and carried out post-doctoral research in the Inner Ear Lab at the University of Göttingen Medical School in Germany.

      Mark has set up his own lab at the Washington University School of Medicine, in the Central Institute for the Deaf research building and he is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology (which deals with conditions of the ear, nose, and throat (ENT) and related structures of the head and neck). His lab uses electrophysiology (study of the electric activity of nerve cells) and various imaging techniques to study the special anatomy and physiology of nerve cells in the inner ear. These are crucial to hearing as they transmit information about sound to the brain.

      You can find out more about Mark's work on his lab website.

      Five minutes with Mark Rutherford…

      What are the biggest problems facing hearing research?

      Differences in 'excitability' (how easy it is for them to 'fire' and send a signal) among the fibres of the auditory nerve are a part of what makes normal hearing happen. Unfortunately, some of these fibres die as we are exposed to loud sounds and as we age. This loss is associated with hearing problems, especially in noisy environments. Once auditory hair cells and auditory nerve fibres die they do not spontaneously regenerate. This leads to permanent hearing loss.

      What do you want your research to achieve?

      In the Rutherford Lab we focus on understanding the processes that underlie differences between auditory nerve fibres in terms of their excitability and susceptibility to damage after noise exposure. We hope that a better understanding of these differences will reveal the reasons why some fibres die with age and noise, whereas others are more resilient.

      What does Action on Hearing Loss funding mean to you?

      Thanks to your funding, the Rutherford Lab is able to hire a full-time employee to help us pursue this important line of research.

      Find out more about Dr Mark Rutherford's research project.

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