Skip to main content

< All Labs

Piotrowski Lab

The primary focus of our lab is understanding the development and regeneration of the zebrafish lateral line and the potential applications for promoting mammalian hair cell regeneration to restore hearing loss or deafness.

Research Summary

How do zebrafish develop and regenerate sensory hair cells?

Research Areas

Development and Regeneration, Evolutionary Biology, Molecular and Cell Biology


Zebrafish, Cavefish

The Piotrowski Lab focuses on development and regeneration of the lateral line sensory system in zebrafish. Research into this system offers growing insight into human sensory organ development and disease, including why individuals lose their hearing as they age.

The lateral line develops from a group of around 100 cells, the primordium, which forms behind the fish's ear, migrates toward the tail tip, and deposits sensory organs, called neuromasts, along the way. Hair cells within neuromasts extend cilia, which look like tiny hairs, to detect water movement, enabling fish to orient themselves, find prey, and avoid predators in the water. These hair cells are remarkably similar to those in mammalian ears that detect sound waves and enable hearing.

The Piotrowski Lab’s research has developed the lateral line system into a powerful model and has identified several genes required for the coordinated migration of groups of cells and uncovered how signaling pathways interact to subdivide the primordium into leading and trailing regions. This aids our understanding of cancer biology, as several human cancers invade tissues as groups of cells.

The Piotrowski Lab investigates how zebrafish sensory hair cells develop and regenerate after injury. In mammals, once hair cells die from aging or after prolonged noise exposure, their inability to regenerate results in permanent hearing loss, in contrast to species who continually generate new hair cells. The team is hopeful their research will elucidate how zebrafish hair cells regenerate to provide clues for triggering hair cell regeneration in mammals, paving the way for treatments for hearing loss.

Principal Investigator

Tatjana Piotrowski


Stowers Institute for Medical Research

Portrait of Tatjana Piotrowski

Get to know the lab

The lateral line of zebrafish is formed by round volcano-shaped organs called neuromasts, which detect the water movement. This is due to the presence of specialized cells called hair cells (labeled with sqet4 in green, in the middle of the organ). The hair cells are surrounded by support cells and mantle cells (labeled with sqet20 in green, forming a ring on the outer part of the organ). Cell nuclei are labeled using H2A-mCherry (in red)


The Piotrowski Lab has been performing single-cell expression analyses of regenerating sensory organs to determine which genes are activated or silenced in each cell. They are currently testing the function of these genes and how they are transcriptionally regulated.

Dr. Tatjana Piotrowski's lab team at the Stowers Institute sitting at a large table in a ramen restaurant

Our Team

Why Stowers?

Why should an early career scientist choose Stowers? Investigator Tatjana Piotrowski says the Institute provides unparalleled mentorship that helps ensure success for new faculty.

Featured Publications

Single-cell transcriptome analysis reveals three sequential phases of gene expression during zebrafish sensory hair cell regeneration

Baek S, Tran NTT, Diaz DC, Tsai YY, Acedo JN, Lush ME, Piotrowski T. [published ahead of print 3-28-2022]. Dev Cell. 2022;57:1-21. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2022.1003.1001.

An anti-inflammatory activation sequence governs macrophage transcriptional dynamics during tissue injury

Denans N, Tran NTT, Swall ME, Diaz DC, Blanck J, Piotrowski T. bioRxiv 2021;09.28.462132.

Adaptive cell invasion maintains lateral line organ homeostasis in response to environmental changes.

Peloggia J, Munch D, Meneses-Giles P, Romero-Carvajal A, Lush ME, Lawson ND, McClain M, Pan YA, Piotrowski T. Dev Cell. 2021;56:1296-1312 e1297.

Comparing Sensory Organs to Define the Path for Hair Cell Regeneration

Denans N, Baek S, Piotrowski T. Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 2019;35:568-589.

PCP and Wnt pathway components act in parallel during zebrafish mechanosensory hair cell orientation

Navajas Acedo J, Voas MG, Alexander R, Woolley T, Unruh JR, Li H, Moens C, Piotrowski T. Nat Commun. 2019;10:3993. doi: 3910.1038/s41467-41019-12005-y.

Newsletter & Alerts