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12 March 2024

2023 Cozzarelli Prize Biological Sciences awarded to hearing loss reversal research

"Reversal of an existing hearing loss by gene activation in Spns2 mutant mice" was awarded the prize from PNAS for scientific excellence and originality.

Limited use View of stria vascularis of Spns2 mutant at 8 weeks old
A segment of the stria vascularis from a homozygous Spns2 mutant. Photograph by Dr Elisa Marteletti.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) announced today that the paper "Reversal of an existing hearing loss by gene activation in Spns2 mutant mice" by researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience has received the annual Cozzarelli Prize in the Biological Sciences category.

Dr Elisa Martelletti, Dr Neil Ingham and Professor Karen Steel are the authors of this paper and researchers at the Wolfson Sensory, Pain and Regeneration Centre at the School of Neuroscience (IoPPN).

Originally published in August 2023, the paper looked at the genetics of hearing loss. Researchers used a genetic approach to reverse deafness in mice with a defective Spns2 gene, restoring their hearing abilities in low- and middle-frequency ranges. The reversal, triggered by a drug, restored hearing when delivered early enough, suggesting a critical period of reversibility. 

We restored hearing to mice that were already deaf, a proof-of-concept that certain types of hearing loss can be reversed. It is an honour to have this work recognised with the Cozzarelli Prize.”

Professor Karen Steel, Professor of Sensory Function at King’s IoPPN and the study’s senior author

Receiving the Cozzarelli Prize is both an incredible honour and a recognition of the importance of our contributions in advancing the understanding and treatment of hearing loss. It fuels our continued commitment to positively impacting individuals affected by hearing impairment through our research.”

Dr Elisa Martelletti, the study’s first author and a research fellow at King’s IoPPN

The researchers suggest that this method may be used to explore the reversibility of other genetic disorders in mice.

The Cozzarelli Prize is awarded annually to six research teams whose PNAS articles have made outstanding contributions to their field. Each team represents one of the six classes of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS): Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Biological Sciences; Engineering and Applied Sciences; Biomedical Sciences; Behavioral and Social Sciences; and Applied Biological, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. 

The award was established in 2005 as the Paper of the Year Prize and was renamed in 2007 to honour the late PNAS Editor-in-Chief Nicholas R. Cozzarelli.

Reversal of an existing hearing loss by gene activation in Spns2 mutant mice (DOI10.1101/2023.05.02.539081) (Elisa Martelletti, Neil J. Ingham and Karen P. Steel) was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In this story

Karen Steel

Professor of Sensory Function