Aminoglycoside antibiotics are the most commonly used antibiotic worldwide due to their proven effectiveness and low cost. They are often used in newborns suspected to have infection, and also in adults with sepsis and pneumonia. However, up to 60% of patients treated with these drugs experience some degree of hearing loss. This hearing loss is a result of the drug entering and damaging the inner ear hair cells, which do not regenerate and are essential to the hearing process.
Drs. Cheng and Ricci will discuss their research to create a safer version of this lifesaving drug, which would retain its effectiveness without causing permanent damage to the hearing mechanism.
Dr. Ricci is moving toward more applied research and Dr. Alan Cheng is seeking to solve the problem of aminoglycoside antibiotic ototoxicity. In 2011, Drs. Cheng and Ricci published an initial paper in PLOS ONE, which showed that AGs enter the inner ear sensory cells via a mechanically-gated ion channel, novel to the sensory hair cells, which is responsible for converting sound waves into electrical signals. This and present work opposed previous theories suggesting that AGs entered sensory cells via a transport molecule. In their most recent collaborative paper they showed that they were able to temporarily disrupt the tip-links in cultured hair cells, and therefore protect them from damage by aminoglycosides. This is important work toward understanding and creating safer drugs which maintain their efficiency. They have also developed their first series of new compounds and are testing ototoxicity and antimicrobial activity. The goal is to provide a modified class of antibiotics that will no longer lead to hearing loss.