Old name, new purpose: why we’ve gone back to RNID

Alice Zanella

University of Sheffield

Alice Zanella was born in Padova, Italy. After studying Classics and Humanities at high school, she moved to Sheffield for her undergraduate studies in 2019, when she started her MBiomedSci course.

While studying and practicing different fields of science, Alice was particularly drawn to Translational Neuroscience and Genetics.  

 More about Alice’s work

In the summer of her third year, Alice discovered more about the Marcotti lab and the intense hearing research it focuses on, by shadowing members of the lab and getting to know more in details about their individual ongoing projects.

She found their research fascinating and beneficial, especially for people affected by hearing disorders, and decided to join the lab for her Master’s project. The significant impact of the research carried out by the Hearing Group at Sheffield kept Alice excited and stimulated throughout her Master’s year, and she chose to pursue a PhD to focus on gene therapy for progressive hearing loss.

Six months later, Alice started her RNID-funded PhD project at the University of Sheffield, investigating gene therapy on mouse models of progressive hearing loss.

Alice’s approaches to hearing research

What do you see as the most exciting breakthrough in hearing research in the last 10 years?

I believe that the discovery of many novel deafness genes, linked to both congenital and progressive hearing loss, is an important breakthrough for hearing research, especially for the design of new potential therapies. 

What do you think will be the next big step forwards in hearing research?

Personally, I am deeply fascinated by the potential of gene-based therapeutic approaches in treatment of hearing loss. Gaining a more thorough understanding of the efficiency and feasibility of gene therapy is a critical step towards the design and implementation of novel treatments that could either prevent, and perhaps even reverse loss of hearing. 

What motivates you to try to improve the world of people who are deaf, have hearing loss, or who have tinnitus?

Although hearing is essential for most aspects of our lives, people often realize how important it is when they start losing it. Unfortunately, hearing loss is the most common sensorineural disorder, affecting a significant number of the world population.

Hearing impairments often lead to secondary health issues such as depression and anxiety, while also limiting social interactions and work opportunities for those affected. At the moment, rehabilitating approaches such as hearing aids and cochlear implants are beneficial, but cannot restore hearing functions. This is why I believe it is really urgent to develop new therapies to help ameliorating the condition of those affected. 

What do you hope your research will achieve?

I really hope my research will provide an important proof of concept of the suitability and the benefits of gene therapy as a treatment for progressive and age-related hearing loss, which has not been studied yet. This would be a critical milestone towards a future translation into clinics, helping to greatly improve the quality of life of patients affected by progressive loss of hearing. 

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Page last updated: 30 January 2024

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