September 13, 2005

Outstanding scholar to give free talk

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Otolaryngologist Leonard P. Rybak, who last spring won Southern Illinois University Carbondale's outstanding scholar award, will give a free talk on his work with inner ear injuries and hearing loss Wednesday, Sept. 21, in the University Museum Auditorium in Faner Hall.

Titled "Mechanisms of Cisplatin-Induced Hearing Loss," the lecture begins at 4 p.m. A public reception will follow at 5 p.m.

The focus of much of Rybak's work is on understanding why many drugs commonly used to treat other ailments can wind up damaging the inner ear and causing hearing loss. He was the first to find that cisplatin, an anti-cancer drug, causes the production of free radicals — atoms or groups of atoms with free, or unpaired, electrons — in inner ear tissues. When free radicals react with cell membranes, they can damage or even kill the cells.

Rybak suggested that this happened because the inner ear's normal detoxification system failed. He then began trying to understand how the free radicals were produced and what might be done to protect the inner ear.

Rybak has also looked at how inner ear cells are normally "remodeled" or replaced in subjects of varying ages, finding that these cells in mature subjects are far more active than was previously thought.

Celebrating faculty excellence is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.