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VIP, November 1997

Dr. Matthew Kelley

H.E.A.R.'s VIP of the month honor goes to Dr. Matthew Kelley for his dedication and on going research in the field of hearing restoration.

As an undergraduate at Cornell University, Matthew Kelley first became involved in biological laboratory research on the hearing and communication of blind fish. After receiving his Bachelor's degree from Cornell, Kelley continued to study hearing and communication in fish on a graduate level. He received a Master' s degree from the School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island and conducted further research at the University of Hawaii. In 1988 he entered a Doctoral program in neuroscience at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. There, his research centered on the examination of how hearing develops in the inner ears of mammals, including humans. The findings from this research are detailed in his dissertation entitled "The Role of Environmental Cues During the Development of the Organ of Corti in Mice".

In 1996, Dr. Kelley accepted a faculty position in the Department of Cell Biology at the Medical School of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. At Georgetown, Kelley plans to continue his research on the formation and regeneration of the microscopic hair cells in the ears of mammals, including humans. In these tiny cells sound is detected and converted into signals that can be understood by the brain. Unfortunately, these delicate cells are easily damaged or destroyed by exposure to loud noises, and do not regrow naturally; thus, the damage leads to progressive hearing loss. Recently, Kelley has made advances in understanding how hair cells are formed and has been able to demonstrate that the development, and possible regeneration, of these cells can be influenced by the use of drugs. These advances have been presented in two publications, "The developing organ of Corti contains retinoic acid and forms supernumerary hair cells in response to exogenous retinoic acid in culture" in the journal Development in 1993 and "Replacement of hair cells after laser irradiation in cultured organs of Corti from embryonic and neonatal mice" in the Journal of Neuroscience in 1995. Although it is not yet possible to regenerate human hair cells through drug therapy, these studies demonstrate the existence of that possibility.


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