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Pharmacology of SGN ion channels


Spiral ganglion neurons (SGN) are the first nerve cells in the auditory pathway. They are activated by hair cells in the cochlea, and transmit an electrical code which describes the auditory world to the brain. These nerve cells are stimulated by the electrodes of a “cochlear implant”, and so act as a potential gateway to the hearing brain for profoundly deaf people. Although they are an essential part of the machinery of our hearing, the function of SGN is not well understood. We aim to characterize the signaling mechanisms within these cells, to create a better understanding of their primary functions, and to reveal potential therapeutic manipulations to alleviate hearing loss.

We are resuming our interests in the ion channels of SGN, in collaboration with the pharmaceutical company Autifony Therapeutics, and with David McAlpine, Jen Linden and Roland Schaette at the Ear Institute. We will be investigating candidate molecules and their ability to modulate voltage-gated ion channel subtypes. In a separate study funded by a Crucible Studentship, Lorcan Browne (co-supervised by David McAlpine and Dave Selwood, Wolfson Institute UCL) will be designing drugs to regulate auditory nerve firing.

Relevant Publications

  • Greenwood D, Jagger DJ, Huang LC, Hoya N, Thorne PR, Wildman SS, King BF, Pak K, Ryan AF, Housley GD. P2X receptor signaling inhibits BDNF-mediated spiral ganglion neuron development in the neonatal rat cochlea. Development 134, 1407-1417, 2007.
  • Dulon D, Jagger DJ, Lin X, Davis RL. Neuromodulation in the spiral ganglion: shaping signals from the organ of Corti to the CNS. Journal of Membrane Biology 209, 167-175, 2006.

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