- B.A., Biology, University of Colorado, 1982
- Ph.D.,Molecular Biology, University of Wisconsin, 1990
- Postdoc., University of Wisconsin
- Postdoc., University of Utah
My lab studies inner ear development in zebrafish. A prominent feature of our research is to investigate how cell-cell signaling and downstream gene-interactions control development. We are exploring how sensory hair cells and neurons of the inner ear are regulated and maintained. Sensory hair cells in different regions of the inner ear are functinoally specialized to either detect sound or motion (for controlling balance). Neurons of the inner ear then transmit signals from hair cells to appropriate processing centers in the brain. Our studies address how hair cells and neurons initially form and become specialized for hearing vs. balance. We are also investigating how zebrafish can replace dead and damaged hair cells, an ability that mammals have lost. The inability to regenerate hair cells explains why humans show progressive irreversible hearing loss as we age. It is hoped that activating or augmenting human homologs of genes shown to operate in zebrafish might help restore hearing and balance in humans. Another set of projects in the lab focus on the mechanisms by which the complex structure of the inner ear arises from a simple pad of cells termed the otic placode. The otic placode initially forms near the developing hindbrain during gastrulation. The placode then udnergoes rapid and extensive growth, differentiation and tissue rearrangement to generate the myriad cell types and complex shape of the inner ear. We have identified many of the genes and signaling molecules that coordinate these early steps in inner ear development, dysfunction of which can cause birth defects and deafness.