I: History and Research Objectives
The Center of Bioacoustics is an
inter-disciplinary joint research-effort between the departments of Audiology and Human Anatomy.
The Center was established on October 1999 and it is
administered by a council of six members, 4 university
professors and 2 experts in biophysics including:
Prof. Silvano Capitani director of the Human
Anatomy Dept.; Prof. Alessandro Martini director
of the Center and of the Dept. of Audiology Prof. Remy? Pujol, director of the laboratory of
Neurobiologie de l?Audition ? Plasticitè Synaptique,
University of Monpellier; Prof. Daniele Ricci;
Silvano Prosser MD and Stavros
The main objectives of the center are the envision and creation of new techniques, animal models and experimental methodologies
which can be applied to a wide area of Bioacoustics,
Pharmacology and Audiology. Analytically:
- The promotion and the activation of projects aiming the study of molecular and cellular mechanisms, involved in the genesis of diseases related to the hearing apparatus.
- Identification and characterization of the factors which modulate the proliferation, differentiation and the apoptosis of the cells in the hearing apparatus.
- Experimental evaluation of the cochlear damages induced by ototoxic agents and noise.
- Experimentation on therapeutic regimes and on new methodologies/ technologies which can recover the hearing function.
- Organization of educational initiatives, for the update related to the scientific developments on the physiopathological aspects of the diseases related to hearing.
The Center or Bioacoustics is
organized into two main sub-groups. The first is occupied
with the electrophysiological aspects of human and
animal hearing (Vivo measurements), while the second studies
the molecular biology of sensorial and nervous cells
from the inner ear (in Vitro measurements).
The Electrophysiology group has developed several
animal models for the detection of ototoxic effects
using mice, rats and guinea-pigs. The group mainly develops
methodologies based on the otoacoustic emission responses
which are signals originating from the inner ear. By using
techniques similar to the sonar technology, the processing
of the otoacoustic emission responses provides a valuable
and powerful tool to study the effects on the forward and
backward sound propagation, from the external ear to the
cochlea. Any obstacles in the sound transmission result
in an alteration of the recorded otoacoustic emission
responses. Within this context, any factor influencing
the sound propagation to the cochlea can be monitored
successfully. Although the standard emission protocols
refer mostly to effects within the auditory periphery,
new emission protocols can provide information on the
status of the efferent system identifying possible hearing
complications in the central nervous system. Verification
of the latter is derived by the information obtained from
recordings of evoked auditory potentials, which monitor
the course of the sound stimuli from the external ear up
to the brainstem.
At present, the following objectives are pursued:
(1) the development of experimental procedures which can
detect mild to light ototoxic effects or alteration of the
(2) the development of solutions by which to reverse / compensate the cochlear damages.
Molecular Biology group utilizes a number of
models such as: whole cochleas isolated from immature rats,
hair cells deriving from the isolated cochleas, primary
cultures of neurons from Scarpa?s ganglion cells , and an
immortalized cell line (OCK-3 cells) of hair cell precursors.
The research objectives are directed towards the elucidation
of the mechanisms involved in the cytotoxicity of drugs
(gentamicin, cisplatin etc), and in particular on the
oxygen radicals (ROS) production or glutathione (GSH)
depletion, and control exerted by some signal transducers,
as protein kinases C (PKCs). Apoptosis is investigated by
electron microscopy, phase contrast or fluorescence microscopy,
by vitality assay and by FACS. Protein analysis is lead by
immuno-histochemistry and immunochemistry after PAGE and WB.
Other substances deriving from phosphoinositide cycle and able
to regulate PKC activity are detected by TLC and HPLC.
Developing areas are:
the over-expression of regulatory proteins
and their mutants, and the production of non commercial
antibodies directed towards cytoskeletal proteins recognized
to exert an important role in auditive pathology.
III : Available Instrumentation
1. In vivo-studies:
Animal experimentation can be pursued by using electrophysiological and acoustical state of the art instrumentation. A specially constructed isolation booth permits the recording of responses at very low stimulus levels i.e. 0 dB SPL.
- Otoacoustic Emissions: Both click and tone stimulation modalities are available. For the latter it is possible to stimulate up to 20 kHz.
- Evoked Potentials: Click and tone-burst stimulation up to 30 kHz for a variety of stimulation modalities.
2. In Vitro-Studies:
3. Multimedia design and INTERNET :
In order to enhance the data distribution
for research and educational purposes the center of
Bioacoustics is equipped for multimedia design and
production (mainly multimedia CD-rom titles using
Macromedia?s Director technologies). Additional facilities
include a 24 h INTERNET connection using the university
network GARR which connects the majority of northern
Italian Universities with a network capable of transmission
rates of 1.5 mbits /sec.
IV: Research Personnel (in alphabetical order)
- Bertolaso Lucia BS/MA
: post graduate student in Genetics, guest researcher
at the Laboratory of Pharmacology of Caroline Dive,
Institute of Pharmacology, University of Manchester,
Manchester, U.K; guest researcher to Laboratory of
Neurobiologie de l?Audition ? Plasticitè Synaptique
of Prof. Rémy Pujol, University of Montpellier,
France. Experience in cell culture, immuno-histochemistry,
protein analysis, cytofluorimetry.
- Di Stefano Marcella Ph.D.
in Neurophysiology and Neurobiology. Experience in live
animal recordings (electrocochleography, Auditory Brainstem
Responses and Otoacoustic Emissions); electrophysiological
- Hatzopoulos Stavros Ph.D.
in Audiological Engineering (inter-disciplinary degree
between electrical and biomedical engineering). Experience
in biological signal processing, time-frequency analysis
and INTERNET related technologies.
- Parmeggiani Alina BS.
- Previati Maurizio BS/MA: guest
researcher in the lab of R. Irvine at the AFRC in
Cambridge, U.K. Experience in protein analysis,
cytofluorimetry, TLC, HPLC.
- Vitali Cristina, BS, MS :