Dunia Abdul-Aziz, MD, an Instructor in Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery at Harvard Medical School and a fellowship-trained neurotologic and otologic surgeon at Mass Eye and Ear, has been named the recipient of the 2022 Seth Robbins Mass General Neuroscience Transformative Scholar in Tinnitus Research Award. The award, which supports junior investigators conducting laboratory or clinical research on tinnitus, is one of four Transformative Scholar Awards awarded by Mass General Neuroscience.
Tinnitus occurs when a person hears persistent sounds, such as ringing, inside their head. The condition affects millions of people worldwide and, without any known cure, clinicians can only recommend ways for people to manage their symptoms, which can be debilitating.
In addition to her clinical practice, Dr. Abdul-Aziz serves as an Investigator in the Tillotson Cell Biology Unit at Mass Eye and Ear. Her research focuses on the regeneration of sensory cells inside the inner ear, referred to as hair cells, which she has studied using CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing tools and organoid models.
With the support of her Transformative Scholar Award, Dr. Abdul-Aziz will study one of the most common causes of tinnitus: hearing loss due to the loss of sensory cells in the ear. Her work will focus on the role of chromatin-modifying complexes and candidate transcription factors on inner-ear, hair-cell fate specification. She seeks to understand epigenetic regulation involved in hair cell regeneration and differentiation using a combination of in vitro cochlear organoid and in vivo mouse models, with the ultimate aim of understanding how to promote hair cell regeneration in humans.