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Chic's Visit with Dr. Richard Smith

by Charles (Chic) Martini

Claire and I just returned from a golfing trip through the Midwest and we were able to visit Dr. Richard Smith at the University of Iowa at his lab studying hearing loss in our family (24 years!) and other families. He was extremely hospitable and gave us an extended tour of his facility where he watches over 40+ people including many Ph.Ds on various projects. It was absolutely phenomenal what we saw. We saw a video of someone capturing a cell. The cell is 5 microns wide. A micron is 1/1,000,000 of a meter or .00004”.  For comparison, a human hair is about 75 microns wide. We observed an operation on a mouse under anesthesia where the person exposed the inner ear of the mouse in order to inject gene therapy medication into the mouse to study it’s effect on the mouse’s gene mutation causing hearing loss. This mouse was not one of the “Martini” mice which he has. He said our mice’s DNA is somewhat more challenging and would try “an easier one first.” We did see a video of Martini mice running around. Some had hearing loss, others did not, just as we are. For some reason the mice with hearing loss tend to run in circles. They can test the mice for hearing loss through brain waves somehow. He gave us a slide show in a large corporate-type boardroom, showing the various stages of how he isolated our hearing loss gene which he named EYA4 on DFNA10.  We have some type of mutation on the EYA4. Those people speak a language with which I am totally unfamiliar! It can be difficult to comprehend. Toward the end, he asked if I would consent to giving some blood and a skin biopsy and I gladly did. This was our 3rd visit over the years and he again stated how happy he was we stopped so he could show an actual face to his people working so hard on various projects. The end is not yet in sight but he is doing everything humanly possible. I pray God continues to watch over him and guide him in his work for humanity.

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