Mass. Eye and Ear Researchers Awarded Curing Kids Fund Grants for Research into Childhood Vision and Hearing Loss

June 06, 2013

Boston, Mass. (June 6, 2013) — Researchers Konstantina Stankovic, M.D., Ph.D., Kip Connor, Ph.D., Luk H. Vandenberghe, Ph.D., Daniel Polley, Ph.D., and M. Christian Brown, Ph.D., have been awarded grants to support their research into childhood vision and hearing loss. The Curing Kids Fund helps bring life-changing treatments to children and accelerate cures and innovations through research.
Dr. Stankovic is an ear surgeon and a hearing researcher in the Mass. Eye and Ear Eaton-Peabody Laboratories, the largest lab in the world dedicated to the study of hearing and deafness. She is also an Assistant Professor of Otology and Laryngology at Harvard Medical School. She received funding for her project, “Seeing in New Light: Quantitative Polarized Light Microscopy of Unstained Pediatric Human Temporal Bones.” Though hearing loss most frequently originates in the inner ear, the inner ear has been difficult to access for diagnosis because of its small size, delicate nature, complex anatomy, and encasement in the densest bone in the body. Dr. Stankovic’s research aims to use an imaging technique called polarized light microspcopy to study the anatomy of the inner ear and evaluate the effectiveness of this technique to image this part of the ear. The findings will have implications for applying this type of imaging as a minimally invasive way to examine the human inner ear.
Dr. Brown is also a hearing researcher at the Mass. Eye and Ear Eaton-Peabody Laboratories and an Assistant Professor in Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. He received funding for his project, “Balancing input between the two ears: implications for children,” which will study neural systems that balance input between the two ears. Balance of input, or sound, between the ears is necessary to determine where a sound is coming from and to understand speech that is masked by noise. Understanding balanced input is important because it is necessary for normal development. Delayed understanding of speech in children can result in slowed development and speech patterns.
Dr. Polley is a hearing researcher in the Amelia Peabody Neural-Plasticity Unit of the Mass. Eye and Ear Eaton-Peabody Laboratories. He is an Assistant Professor in Otology and Laryngology at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Polley received funding for his project, “Recovery of Brain Function Following Reversible Congenital Hearing Loss.” The study will seek to better understand congenital hearing loss. Congenitally deaf children fit with a cochlear implant at 5 years of age or later exhibit significantly worse outcomes for speech comprehension than children implanted just a few years earlier. Dr. Polley seeks to better understand the reason for this and examine whether the delays that result from congenital hearing loss can be addressed with intensive rehabilitation techniques.
Dr. Connor is an ophthalmology researcher in the Howe Laboratory of Ophthalmology at Mass. Eye and Ear. He received funding for his project, “Translational Profiling of the Neurovascular Unit in Retinopathy of Prematurity,” which will investigate genetic factors that contribute to the development of the disease and aim to identify new target molecules that contribute to the disease. Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a leading cause of blindness in children
Dr. Vandenberghe is an ophthalmology researcher at the Mass. Eye and Ear/Schepens Eye Research Institute. He received funding for his project entitled, “Gene Therapy for Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA),” which aims to develop a new gene therapy to treat the disease. LCA is an inherited eye disease that leads to severe vision loss during infancy and early childhood.
Under the leadership of Chairman Wyc Grousbeck, the Curing Kids fund was created in 2010. Curing Kids Fund grants are made possible by funds raised from the hospital’s annual Sense-ation! Gala. The 2012 Sense-ation! Gala raised $1.1 million for the Mass. Eye and Ear Curing Kids Fund. Curing Kids Fund research grants are competitive grants awarded to Mass. Eye and Ear and Schepens Eye Research Institute investigators.
The five grants awarded are just one aspect of the Curing Kids Fund. Monies from the fund also provide services for needy children such as eyeglasses and hearing aids, support pediatric services, and seed a Curing Kids endowment for research to help children.
Mass. Eye and Ear hopes to add significantly to the Curing Kids Fund in the years to come. The next Sense-ation! Gala will take place on Oct. 9, 2013 at the Boston Marriott Copley Place. For more information, visit
About Massachusetts Eye and Ear
Mass. Eye and Ear clinicians and scientists are driven by a mission to find cures for blindness, deafness and diseases of the head and neck. Now united with Schepens Eye Research Institute, Mass. Eye and Ear is the world's largest vision and hearing research center, developing new treatments and cures through discovery and innovation. Mass. Eye and Ear is a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital and trains future medical leaders in ophthalmology and otolaryngology, through residency as well as clinical and research fellowships. Internationally acclaimed since its founding in 1824, Mass. Eye and Ear employs full-time, board-certified physicians who offer high-quality and affordable specialty care that ranges from the routine to the very complex. U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Hospitals Survey” has consistently ranked the Mass. Eye and Ear Departments of Otolaryngology and Ophthalmology as top five in the nation. For more information about life-changing care and research, or to learn how you can help, please visit