Alumna Dr. Leila Abbas in ground breaking stem cell research team
Dr Leila Abbas, 1994 leaver, has been part of a team making national headline news recently, due to her involvement in pioneering research which could eliminate deafness and hearing problems. Working on ‘The Biology of Human Otic Stem Cells’ at the University of Sheffield, Dr Abbas and the team there, led by Marcelo Rivolta have successfully taken stem cells from foetuses and converted them into cells that mimic the behaviour of sensory hair cells in the human inner ear. This groundbreaking discovery could ultimately help some 10% of the world’s population: those who have lost hair cells through noise damage and those who are born with inherited hearing problems. Damage to hair cells is irreversible, so treatment does not currently exist to undo the damage; due to the unique ability of embryonic stem cells to become any kind of human cell, this could soon change. Quoting BBC News Dr Ralph Holme, director of biomedical research at the charity Action on Hearing Loss, said: “Stem cell therapy for hearing loss is still some years away but this research is incredibly promising and opens up exciting possibilities by bringing us closer to restoring hearing in the future.”
After leaving Withington, Dr. Abbas graduated from the University of Cambridge with a degree in Natural Sciences. Leila then went on to complete her PhD on Developmental Neurobiology at University College London. She is now a Senior Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Sheffield.
All at Withington send their warm congratulations to Dr. Abbas and her team.