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The Wilder Penfield Lecture

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The Penfield Lecture was inaugurated in 1985 to honour Wilder Penfield, pioneering neurosurgeon and founder of the MNI.

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Talk title: From the Genetic Dissection of Auditory Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms to Hearing Restoration

Speaker: Christine Petit

Professor, College de France, Chair of Genetics and Cellular Physiology

Professor “Classe exceptionnelle”, Institut Pasteur, laboratory of Genetics and Physiology of Hearing

Head of Inserm UMRS1120, Pierre et Marie Curie Université (UPMC), Paris, FRANCE

Bio: Christine PETIT is a geneticist and neuroscientist. She studied medicine simultaneously with genetics and biochemistry at the Faculty of Sciences, Paris XI University. She became a research scientist at Institut Pasteur in the mid-1970s, Professor at Collège de France, where she holds the Genetics and Cell Physiology chair, in 2002, and then founding Director of the Hearing Institute, an Institut Pasteur center affiliated to INSERM, in Paris, in 2019.

Having realized that the auditory system had escaped molecular characterization due to the paucity of cells in the cochlea, she suggested a genetic dissection of sound processing in this sensory organ, based on the genes responsible for sensorineural deafness in humans. She identified a number of these genes by studying geographically isolated deaf populations. She then deciphered molecular mechanisms involved in cochlear ion and redox homeostasis, and neurotransmitter exocytosis at the hair-cell synapse. In parallel, she elucidated the pathogenic processes underlying numerous human hereditary forms of deafness. In recent years, she and her colleagues have been exploring gene therapy for the treatment of hereditary deafness, providing proof of concept for several deafness forms.

Christine PETIT is a member of the French Academy of Sciences and a foreign member of the National Academy of Sciences (USA). She has received many awards, including the L’Oréal-UNESCO "For Women in Science" Award in 2004, the Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine in 2006, the INSERM Grand Prix de la Recherche Médicale in 2007, The Brain Prize from the Grete Lundbeck Foundation in 2012, and the Kavli Prize, which she shared with Jim Hudspeth and Robert Fettiplace, in 2018.

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