Strategic Research Plan
Phase 1 – Discovery research: Compare the fish, chick, and mouse to discover pro- or anti-regeneration pathways and determine supporting cell fates.
So far, Scientists have identified various pathways for hair cell regeneration. Since there are many potential gene targets, they continually utilize bioinformatics methods to winnow down and determine which are most relevant. Researchers have shown in the mouse neighboring supporting cells remain after deafening.
Phase 2 – Pathway validation: Verify animal model pathways and describe regeneration strategies.
Recent technological advances have enabled researchers to examine single hair cells rather than entire clusters. This aids our focus our study on gene expression immediately after a single hair cell is damaged. The question now being asked is, what are the early events that occur in the hair cells of zebrafish and chicks, but not in mice, before the hair cells die? The genes not undergoing the same expression in the mouse as in the other two animal models will be targets for manipulation.
Phase 3 – Develop treatments: Identify drugs to trigger hair cell regeneration in mammals.
Experimental models from Phase 2 will be used to screen for drugs—using the mouse model first.
“Identifying genes that trigger regeneration in neighboring cells is crucial, as activation of these genes might be able to trigger regeneration in mammals. Once we identify where this signaling cascade is blocked, we can design therapies to circumvent this block and trigger regeneration.”
—HRP Scientist Tatjana Piotrowski, Ph.D.