Professional Education

  • Doctor of Philosophy, University Of Melbourne (2014)

Stanford Advisors


All Publications

  • Sox2 haploinsufficiency primes regeneration and Wnt responsiveness in the mouse cochlea JOURNAL OF CLINICAL INVESTIGATION Atkinson, P. J., Dong, Y., Gu, S., Liu, W., Najarro, E., Udagawa, T., Cheng, A. G. 2018; 128 (4): 1641–56


    During development, Sox2 is indispensable for cell division and differentiation, yet its roles in regenerating tissues are less clear. Here, we used combinations of transgenic mouse models to reveal that Sox2 haploinsufficiency (Sox2haplo) increases rather than impairs cochlear regeneration in vivo. Sox2haplo cochleae had delayed terminal mitosis and ectopic sensory cells, yet normal auditory function. Sox2haplo amplified and expanded domains of damage-induced Atoh1+ transitional cell formation in neonatal cochlea. Wnt activation via β-catenin stabilization (β-cateninGOF) alone failed to induce proliferation or transitional cell formation. By contrast, β-cateninGOF caused proliferation when either Sox2haplo or damage was present, and transitional cell formation when both were present in neonatal, but not mature, cochlea. Mechanistically, Sox2haplo or damaged neonatal cochleae showed lower levels of Sox2 and Hes5, but not of Wnt target genes. Together, our study unveils an interplay between Sox2 and damage in directing tissue regeneration and Wnt responsiveness and thus provides a foundation for potential combinatorial therapies aimed at stimulating mammalian cochlear regeneration to reverse hearing loss in humans.

    View details for DOI 10.1172/JCI97248

    View details for Web of Science ID 000431958600039

    View details for PubMedID 29553487

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5873847

  • Profiling Specific Inner Ear Cell Types Using Cell Sorting Techniques. Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.) Jan, T. A., Jansson, L., Atkinson, P. J., Wang, T., Cheng, A. G. 2016; 1427: 431-445


    Studies of specific tissue cell types are becoming increasingly important in advancing our understanding of cell biology and gene and protein expression. Prospective isolation of specific cell types is a powerful technique as it facilitates such investigations, allowing for analysis and characterization of individual cell populations. Such an approach to studying inner ear tissues presents a unique challenge because of the paucity of cells of interest and limited cell markers. In this chapter, we describe methods for selectively labeling and isolating different inner ear cell types from the neonatal mouse cochlea using fluorescence-activated cell sorting.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/978-1-4939-3615-1_23

    View details for PubMedID 27259940

  • Sensory hair cell development and regeneration: similarities and differences DEVELOPMENT Atkinson, P. J., Najarro, E. H., Sayyid, Z. N., Cheng, A. G. 2015; 142 (9): 1561-1571


    Sensory hair cells are mechanoreceptors of the auditory and vestibular systems and are crucial for hearing and balance. In adult mammals, auditory hair cells are unable to regenerate, and damage to these cells results in permanent hearing loss. By contrast, hair cells in the chick cochlea and the zebrafish lateral line are able to regenerate, prompting studies into the signaling pathways, morphogen gradients and transcription factors that regulate hair cell development and regeneration in various species. Here, we review these findings and discuss how various signaling pathways and factors function to modulate sensory hair cell development and regeneration. By comparing and contrasting development and regeneration, we also highlight the utility and limitations of using defined developmental cues to drive mammalian hair cell regeneration.

    View details for DOI 10.1242/dev.114926

    View details for Web of Science ID 000353591300002

    View details for PubMedID 25922522

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4419275

  • Atoh1 gene therapy in the cochlea for hair cell regeneration EXPERT OPINION ON BIOLOGICAL THERAPY Richardson, R. T., Atkinson, P. J. 2015; 15 (3): 417-430


    The sensory epithelium of the cochlea is a complex structure containing hair cells, supporting cells and auditory nerve endings, all of which degenerate after hearing loss in mammals. Biological approaches are being considered to preserve and restore the sensory epithelium after hearing loss. Of particular note is the ectopic expression of the Atoh1 gene, which has been shown to convert residual supporting cells into hair cells with restoration of function in some cases.In this review, hair cell development, spontaneous regeneration and hair cell regeneration mediated by Atoh1 gene therapy in the cochlea are discussed.Gene therapy can be safely delivered locally to the inner ear and can be targeted to the sensory epithelium of the cochlea. Expression of the Atoh1 gene in supporting cells results in their transformation into cells with the appearance and function of immature hair cells but with the resulting loss of the original supporting cell. While the feasibility of Atoh1 gene therapy in the cochlea is largely dependent on the severity of the hearing loss, hearing restoration can be achieved in some situations. With further advances in Atoh1 gene therapy, hearing loss may not be as permanent as once thought.

    View details for DOI 10.1517/14712598.2015.1009889

    View details for Web of Science ID 000349839300011

    View details for PubMedID 25648190

  • Hair Cell Regeneration after ATOH1 Gene Therapy in the Cochlea of Profoundly Deaf Adult Guinea Pigs PLOS ONE Atkinson, P. J., Wise, A. K., Flynn, B. O., Nayagam, B. A., Richardson, R. T. 2014; 9 (7)


    The degeneration of hair cells in the mammalian cochlea results in permanent sensorineural hearing loss. This study aimed to promote the regeneration of sensory hair cells in the mature cochlea and their reconnection with auditory neurons through the introduction of ATOH1, a transcription factor known to be necessary for hair cell development, and the introduction of neurotrophic factors. Adenoviral vectors containing ATOH1 alone, or with neurotrophin-3 and brain derived neurotrophic factor were injected into the lower basal scala media of guinea pig cochleae four days post ototoxic deafening. Guinea pigs treated with ATOH1 gene therapy, alone, had a significantly greater number of cells expressing hair cell markers compared to the contralateral non-treated cochlea when examined 3 weeks post-treatment. This increase, however, did not result in a commensurate improvement in hearing thresholds, nor was there an increase in synaptic ribbons, as measured by CtBP2 puncta after ATOH1 treatment alone, or when combined with neurotrophins. However, hair cell formation and synaptogenesis after co-treatment with ATOH1 and neurotrophic factors remain inconclusive as viral transduction was reduced due to the halving of viral titres when the samples were combined. Collectively, these data suggest that, whilst ATOH1 alone can drive non-sensory cells towards an immature sensory hair cell phenotype in the mature cochlea, this does not result in functional improvements after aminoglycoside-induced deafness.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0102077

    View details for Web of Science ID 000339615200036

    View details for PubMedID 25036727

  • Viability of Long-Term Gene Therapy in the Cochlea SCIENTIFIC REPORTS Atkinson, P. J., Wise, A. K., Flynn, B. O., Nayagam, B. A., Richardson, R. T. 2014; 4


    Gene therapy has been investigated as a way to introduce a variety of genes to treat neurological disorders. An important clinical consideration is its long-term effectiveness. This research aims to study the long-term expression and effectiveness of gene therapy in promoting spiral ganglion neuron survival after deafness. Adenoviral vectors modified to express brain derived neurotrophic factor or neurotrophin-3 were unilaterally injected into the guinea pig cochlea one week post ototoxic deafening. After six months, persistence of gene expression and significantly greater neuronal survival in neurotrophin-treated cochleae compared to the contralateral cochleae were observed. The long-term gene expression observed indicates that gene therapy is potentially viable; however the degeneration of the transduced cells as a result of the original ototoxic insult may limit clinical effectiveness. With further research aimed at transducing stable cochlear cells, gene therapy may be an efficacious way to introduce neurotrophins to promote neuronal survival after hearing loss.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/srep04733

    View details for Web of Science ID 000334666900003

    View details for PubMedID 24751795

  • Neurotrophin Gene Therapy for Sustained Neural Preservation after Deafness PLOS ONE Atkinson, P. J., Wise, A. K., Flynn, B. O., Nayagam, B. A., Hume, C. R., O'Leary, S. J., Shepherd, R. K., Richardson, R. T. 2012; 7 (12)


    The cochlear implant provides auditory cues to profoundly deaf patients by electrically stimulating the residual spiral ganglion neurons. These neurons, however, undergo progressive degeneration after hearing loss, marked initially by peripheral fibre retraction and ultimately culminating in cell death. This research aims to use gene therapy techniques to both hold and reverse this degeneration by providing a sustained and localised source of neurotrophins to the deafened cochlea. Adenoviral vectors containing green fluorescent protein, with or without neurotrophin-3 and brain derived neurotrophic factor, were injected into the lower basal turn of scala media of guinea pigs ototoxically deafened one week prior to intervention. This single injection resulted in localised and sustained gene expression, principally in the supporting cells within the organ of Corti. Guinea pigs treated with adenoviral neurotrophin-gene therapy had greater neuronal survival compared to contralateral non-treated cochleae when examined at 7 and 11 weeks post injection. Moreover; there was evidence of directed peripheral fibre regrowth towards cells expressing neurotrophin genes after both treatment periods. These data suggest that neurotrophin-gene therapy can provide sustained protection of spiral ganglion neurons and peripheral fibres after hearing loss.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0052338

    View details for Web of Science ID 000312435900090

    View details for PubMedID 23284995

  • Activity of all JNK isoforms contributes to neurite growth in spiral ganglion neurons HEARING RESEARCH Atkinson, P. J., Cho, C., Hansen, M. R., Green, S. H. 2011; 278 (1-2): 77-85


    Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) is a multifunctional protein kinase crucial for neuronal apoptosis as well as neurite growth. We have previously shown that JNK activity is correlated with spiral ganglion neuron (SGN) apoptosis following hair cell loss in rats (Alam et al., 2007) implying that JNK inhibition may have therapeutic potential to protect SGNs in deaf individuals. Here we investigated the role of JNK in neurite outgrowth from cultured neonatal rat and mouse SGNs. We show that JNK is required for initial growth of neurites and for continued extension of already established neurites. The effect of JNK inhibition on neurite growth is rapid and is also rapidly reversible after washout of the inhibitor. Using phosphoJNK immunoreactivity as an indicator, we show that JNK is activated in growth cones within 30 min after transfer to medium lacking neurotrophic stimuli (5 K medium) but activation in the nucleus and soma requires hours. By transfecting epitope-tagged JNK1, JNK2, or JNK3 isoforms into SGNs, we found that all are present in the nucleus and cytoplasm and that there is no preferential redistribution to the nucleus after transfer to 5 K medium. Cotransfection of dominant-negative (dn) JNK1 and JNK2 into SGNs reduced neurite growth, although transfection of dnJNK1 or dnJNK2 alone had no significant effect. SGNs cultured from JNK3(-/-) mice showed reduced neurite growth that was further reduced by transfection of dnJNK1 and dnJNK2. This indicates that all three JNK isoforms promote SGN neurite growth although there may be functional redundancy between JNK1 and JNK2.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.heares.2011.04.011

    View details for Web of Science ID 000294515300008

    View details for PubMedID 21554942

  • The effect of deafness duration on neurotrophin gene therapy for spiral ganglion neuron protection HEARING RESEARCH Wise, A. K., Tu, T., Atkinson, P. J., Flynn, B. O., Sgro, B. E., Hume, C., O'Leary, S. J., Shepherd, R. K., Richardson, R. T. 2011; 278 (1-2): 69-76


    A cochlear implant can restore hearing function by electrically exciting spiral ganglion neurons (SGNs) in the deaf cochlea. However, following deafness SGNs undergo progressive degeneration ultimately leading to their death. One significant cause of SGN degeneration is the loss of neurotrophic support that is normally provided by cells within the organ of Corti (OC). The administration of exogenous neurotrophins (NTs) can protect SGNs from degeneration but the effects are short-lived once the source of NTs has been exhausted. NT gene therapy, whereby cells within the cochlea are transfected with genes enabling them to produce NTs, is one strategy for providing a cellular source of NTs that may provide long-term support for SGNs. As the SGNs normally innervate sensory cells within the OC, targeting residual OC cells for gene therapy in the deaf cochlea may provide a source of NTs for SGN protection and targeted regrowth of their peripheral fibers. However, the continual degeneration of the OC over extended periods of deafness may deplete the cellular targets for NT gene therapy and hence limit the effectiveness of this method in preventing SGN loss. This study examined the effects of deafness duration on the efficacy of NT gene therapy in preventing SGN loss in guinea pigs that were systemically deafened with aminoglycosides. Adenoviral vectors containing green fluorescent protein (GFP) with or without genes for Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) and Neurotrophin-3 (NT3) were injected into the scala media (SM) compartment of cochleae that had been deafened for one, four or eight weeks prior to the viral injection. The results showed that viral transfection of cells within the SM was still possible even after severe degeneration of the OC. Supporting cells (pillar and Deiters' cells), cells within the stria vascularis, the spiral ligament, endosteal cells lining the scala compartments and interdental cells in the spiral limbus were transfected. However, the level of transfection was remarkably lower following longer durations of deafness. There was a significant increase in SGN survival in the entire basal turn for cochleae that received NT gene therapy compared to the untreated contralateral control cochleae for the one week deaf group. In the four week deaf group significant SGN survival was observed in the lower basal turn only. There was no increase in SGN survival for the eight week deaf group in any cochlear region. These findings indicated that the efficacy of NT gene therapy diminished with increasing durations of deafness leading to reduced benefits in terms of SGN protection. Clinically, there remains a window of opportunity in which NT gene therapy can provide ongoing trophic support for SGNs.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.heares.2011.04.010

    View details for Web of Science ID 000294515300007

    View details for PubMedID 21557994

  • Polypyrrole-coated electrodes for the delivery of charge and neurotrophins to cochlear neurons BIOMATERIALS Richardson, R. T., Wise, A. K., Thompson, B. C., Flynn, B. O., Atkinson, P. J., Fretwell, N. J., Fallon, J. B., Wallace, G. G., Shepherd, R. K., Clark, G. M., O'Leary, S. J. 2009; 30 (13): 2614-2624


    Sensorineural hearing loss is associated with gradual degeneration of spiral ganglion neurons (SGNs), compromising hearing outcomes with cochlear implant use. Combination of neurotrophin delivery to the cochlea and electrical stimulation from a cochlear implant protects SGNs, prompting research into neurotrophin-eluting polymer electrode coatings. The electrically conducting polypyrrole/para-toluene sulfonate containing neurotrophin-3 (Ppy/pTS/NT3) was applied to 1.7 mm2 cochlear implant electrodes. Ppy/pTS/NT3-coated electrode arrays stored 2 ng NT3 and released 0.1 ng/day with electrical stimulation. Guinea pigs were implanted with Ppy/pTS or Ppy/pTS/NT3 electrode arrays two weeks after deafening via aminoglycosides. The electrodes of a subgroup of these guinea pigs were electrically stimulated for 8 h/day for 2 weeks. There was a loss of SGNs in the implanted cochleae of guinea pigs with Ppy/pTS-coated electrodes indicative of electrode insertion damage. However, guinea pigs implanted with electrically stimulated Ppy/pTS/NT3-coated electrodes had lower electrically-evoked auditory brainstem response thresholds and greater SGN densities in implanted cochleae compared to non-implanted cochleae and compared to animals implanted with Ppy/pTS-coated electrodes (p<0.05). Ppy/pTS/NT3 did not exacerbate fibrous tissue formation and did not affect electrode impedance. Drug-eluting conducting polymer coatings on cochlear implant electrodes present a clinically viable method to promote preservation of SGNs without adversely affecting the function of the cochlear implant.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2009.01.015

    View details for Web of Science ID 000264691200022

    View details for PubMedID 19178943