Piotrowski Receives Additional HHF Funding

The Hearing Health Foundation has awarded Associate Investigator Tatjana Piotrowski, PhD, additional funds for a project she co-leads along with Stanford researcher Stefan Heller, PhD. Piotrowski’s goal is to identify genes that are up- or down- regulated in the support cells of the zebrafish lateral line.

Piotrowski studies hair cell regeneration in zebrafish. Unlike in mammals, when zebrafish hair cells die, support cells can proliferate and replenish them. Piotrowski seeks to uncover the mechanisms that allow zebrafish hair cells to regenerate while mammalian hair cells cannot.

Her research focuses on the lateral line, a sensory organ in zebrafish, that enables a fish to stay righted and correctly oriented and is analogous to the inner ear sensory epithelia of mammals. Previously Piotrowski’s lab had determined how genetic pathways change during hair cell regeneration in the zebrafish lateral line as a whole. The additional funds will allow her to analyze support cells at the single-cell level to determine how many support cells exist, what genes are expressed in each cell, and how gene expression changes due to disruption of genetic signaling pathways.

While Heller’s research focuses on support cells in chickens, Piotrowski’s partnership with Heller aims to provide a comparison of gene expression changes in two different regenerating species as a valuable way to reveal evolutionarily conserved gene interactions required for hair cell growth. This information could prove useful in designing therapies for hearing loss in mammals.