We use zebrafish as a model for human hearing and balance with the goal of protecting and repairing inner ears from damage
Hair cells are the exquisitely sensitive and inexhaustible sensory receptors of the auditory and vestibular systems. Features of hair cells that make them effective detectors of sound and spatial orientation also make them vulnerable to damage from noise and certain antibiotics and chemotherapeutic drugs. This damage can lead to hair-cell loss or permanent loss of connections between hair cells and auditory/vestibular nerves.
Research in the Sheets Lab focuses on understanding mechanisms of damage to hair-cell organs overexposed to mechanical trauma or ototoxic drugs and discovering cellular processes that drive repair following damage. We use zebrafish as a model for human hearing and balance. The zebrafish lateral-line organ—a sensory organ used to detect the movement of water—contains hair cells on the surface of the body that are analogous to human hair cells yet are easily accessible. Additionally, we take advantage of the zebrafish’s ability to regenerate complex tissues to identify novel strategies for restoring damaged hair cells and innervating nerves in humans.
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If you are interested in learning more about the lab or inquiring about open positions, please get in touch.