Hela Azaiez, PhD
Associate Research Scientist (Research Hearing Team Lead)
Person Type: 

I am a Senior Scientist at the MORL. I received my Master of Science in Biological Engineering and my Ph.D. in Human Molecular Genetics at the University of Sfax in Tunisia conjointly with the University of Iowa. After completing a postdoc at the MORL, I went back to my home country Tunisia as an Assistant Professor at the Pasteur Institute of Tunis where I focused on characterizing the genetic spectrum of orphan diseases in the Tunisian population. I returned to Iowa City in 2012 where I am currently leading the Hearing research and diagnostics teams at MORL. My research aims are to better understand the molecular mechanisms of hearing and deafness and to translate this knowledge into better clinical diagnostics and improved patient care.  My interdisciplinary research program is focused on the discovery of novel genes, genetic modifiers and non-coding regulatory elements involved in hereditary deafness as well as the investigation of genetic contributions to age- and noise-induced hearing loss. I also oversee the development of next-generation sequencing pipelines and tools to improve identification, interpretation and clinical correlation of genomic variants.

The short term benefits this knowledge provides are being realized in clinical medicine, where the use of comprehensive genetic testing for deafness has revolutionized the field of Precision Medicine and the evaluation of the hearing-impaired person.  In the long term, this knowledge will ultimately result in the development of novel treatment options for deafness.