Hearing and balance are contingent on proper function of the sensory hair cells of the inner ear and the highly ordered patterning of their stereocilia, actin-rich structures that detect mechanical stimuli e.g. sound waves. In mammals, cochlear hair cells are postmitotic at birth and must preserve their structure and function for the lifetime of the organism. My goal is to characterize hair cell response to damage, ranging from everyday mechanical stress to dramatic loss of stereocilia due to extreme noise exposure or ototoxic drugs. We use advanced genetic mouse models that allow us to precisely track protein turnover and localization throughout hair cell development, maintenance, and repair. These studies will expand our knowledge of the genetic and environmental factors associated with age-related hearing loss and thus illuminate pathways toward hearing preservation and extended healthspan.
BS, Biochemistry, Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY