March 31, 2006

March of Dimes award to aid deafness research

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Matthew Tyska, Ph.D.

March of Dimes award to aid deafness research

Matthew Tyska, Ph.D., was recently awarded the Basil O'Connor Starter Scholar Research Award from the March of Dimes.

These awards support research on birth defects by young scientists just embarking on independent research careers.

Tyska, assistant professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, joined the faculty in 2004. He studies a class of proteins called myosins, biological 'motors' that use chemical energy to generate the directed movement of intracellular components.

Mutations in one member of this protein family, myosin-1a, have been implicated in genetic forms of deafness — one of the most common birth defects, appearing in one out of 1,000 children.

With the funding from the March of Dimes, Tyska hopes to identify the role of myosin-1a in normal inner ear development and function. His laboratory will also study the impact of deafness-associated point mutations on the biochemical and mechanical activity of myosin-1a. The results could provide novel insights on inner ear biology and aid in the development of therapeutic measures aimed at correcting hearing loss.

Founded in 1938, the March of Dimes is a national nonprofit health agency dedicated to improving the health of babies by preventing birth defects and infant mortality. The mission is carried out through the support of research, community service, education and advocacy programs.