HHF renews support for Tatjana Piotrowski’s research on hair cell regeneration

Through its Hearing Restoration Project (HRP), the Hearing Health Foundation is continuing to fund a study co-led by Associate Investigator Tatjana Piotrowski, PhD, that aims to characterize the molecular mechanisms underlying regeneration of sensory hair cell populations along the zebrafish lateral line. Lateral line hair cells are similar to mammalian inner ear hair cells that enable hearing, but in contrast to mammalian hair cells, lateral line hair cells regenerate after damage.

HRP scientists are part of a consortium that emphasizes collaboration across multiple institutions, with the goal of developing new therapies for hearing loss. Several ongoing HRP projects have generated large data sets illuminating the transcriptomes—which reflect all the genes being actively expressed at any one time—of hundreds to thousands of chicken and mouse hair and support cells.

Since their study took off in 2012, Piotrowski’s group has produced similarly extensive information for zebrafish. They will now apply the power of bioinformatics in cross-comparing and mining these data sets. Their overarching goal is to identify key genes and biochemical pathways that trigger hair cell regeneration in non-mammals like zebrafish and chickens, while simultaneously searching for mammalian genes that block this important process. They hope to use the knowledge gleaned from non-mammals to one day direct hair cell regeneration—first in mice, then ultimately in humans.