Fuxin Shi, PH.D., B.M.
|Title||Instructor in Otology and Laryngology|
|Institution||Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary|
|Department||Otology and Laryngology|
|Address||Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infrm|
Eaton Peabody Laboratory
243 Charles St
Boston MA 02114
The objective of our research is to investigate molecular pathways in hair cell development, and to exploit these pathways in order to regenerate sensory hair cells and restore hearing. We aim to also explore novel methods for the prevention of hair cell loss during ototoxic insult and acoustic trauma.
Wnt/beta-catenin signaling is a well-known pathway essential for stem cell maintenance and differentiation. In the ear, we found that Wnt signaling controls the expression of Atoh1, which is a key gene in hair cell development. In a recent study, we identified one downstream target of Wnt signaling to be a marker of inner ear stem cells. The Wnt pathway controls the fate of those stem cells during neonatal development. Specifically, in the developing embryo, Wnt signaling is active in inner ear stem cells at the time that hair cell differentiation is taking place, but disappears in the mature inner ear despite the persistence of inner ear stem cells. These findings suggest that the lack of regenerative ability in the inner ear can be attributed, at least in part, to the loss of Wnt signaling. Based on our studies, we will develop novel strategies to re-activate Wnt signaling in inner ear stem cells in order to regenerate hair cells.
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