Ear Science works with talented emerging researchers across various intensive projects. You’ve recently met Minami Uemoto, a student researcher assisting Dr Elaine Wong by examining genetic mutations and inner ear hair cell development. Working beside Minami is fellow student, Xin Ee Khoh.
Xin Ee is part of our team aiming to cure Usher Syndrome. Usher Syndrome is a genetic condition that causes hearing, sight and balance to deteriorate.
Based at our lab in Nedlands, Xin Ee compares inner ear hair cells from Usher Syndrome Type 1 patients (there are three types) against those of an unaffected person. Type 1 is the most severe of the three classified types of Usher Syndrome: most patients are born with severe to profound hearing loss and balance problems.
The teams are using Usher patient skin cells to create pluripotent stem cells in the lab by reprogramming them with a special cocktail of factors. These ‘embryo-like’ stem cells have unlimited regenerative potential to become any cell in the body. To unlock this potential we give them a set of chemical instructions that causes them to take on the properties of a specific adult cell type, such as a hair cell. Through precise gene editing to correct the Usher mutation, the team will then test methods to develop patient-specific cochlear hair cells for hearing which can be delivered back into the same patient. Our collaborators over at Lions Eye Institute are working similarly to produce retina cells to help restore the patient’s vision.
Much like fellow researchers Minami Uemoto and Abbie Francis, Xin Ee became involved with Ear Science at a University event.
“I was excited to attend an honours information night when I knew Ear Science would be presenting.
I was fortunate to be able to meet and speak to Dr Elaine Wong and Huan Ting Ong about my interests and possible future opportunities at Ear Science.”
Xin Ee’s interest in hearing research started during her studies at UWA.
“I was exposed to the auditory system and research into the possibility of hair cells regeneration as a cure of deafness in one of the courses I took. That sparked my interest in the auditory field and inspired me to pursue a degree in this field.”
When Xin Ee isn’t working hard in the lab, she’s playing badminton.
“It challenges muscle memory and explores what one could possibly do when we don't think we can – nothing is impossible.”
Learn more about our work with talented students.