Current Research

Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery

Numerous ongoing clinical trials and prospective studies, ENT Quality of Life and Epidemiologic Research, new product trials, Basic science research

Bernd Sokolowski, Ph.D.

Flourescent dyes staining the senory or hair cells (HSs) of the cochlea in th echick inner ear.Dr. Sokolowski received his PhD in cell biology from the Georgetown University School of Medicine, specializing in the development of sensory cells of the inner ear. He did postdoctoral work at The Johns Hopkins University, Hearing Sciences Center, and the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Department of Physiology. There, he studied the electrical signals relevant to coding sound in the cochlea and the proteins that underlie these signals. He is presently a Full Professor and Research Director in the Department of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery where his research explores the mechanisms that turn on cellular and genetic events that regulate the development of nerves and sensory cells in the inner ear. Studies are presently concentrating on the mechanisms that regulate proteins necessary for excitation and intracellular signaling in these cells. Members of the lab use multiple techniques including gene cloning, proteomics, and electrophysiology to discover and characterize these proteins.

Research Mission. Inner ear dysfunction affects millions of children and adults in the form of hearing loss (including deafness), tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and disorders of balance (vertigo). These problems can occur before birth, at birth, or sometime during various stages in life. For those who suffer from tinnitus and vertigo the effects can be frightening and debilitating. Moreover, hearing loss can permanently erode the speech, language and cognitive development of children, as well as diminish or destroy self-confidence and perceptual abilities of adults, whose hearing was once normal but is now degenerating. The underlying causes of many of these disorders are not fully understood and, consequently, are incurable at this time.

My research at the Otology Laboratory of the University of South Florida, Department of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, is aimed at discovering the principles that underlie the formation of the inner ear prior to birth. An understanding of these principles is essential because it will provide insights into both the genetic and cellular mechanisms that underlie many of these disorders, whether they occur at birth or later in life. Furthermore, research on the developing inner ear shows that, while restoration of damaged cells does not readily occur under normal circumstances in humans, there are species in which healing of damaged tissue occurs naturally. Consequently, understanding how development and restoration occurs in other species will help us to restore function in the damaged inner ears of humans. This understanding is the primary goal of our research and it is my hope that this knowledge will bring about the necessary cures.