Professor, Oregon Hearing Research Center:
We are interested in the molecular basis of mechanotransduction and synaptic transmission in auditory/vestibular hair cells. To identify key players in these processes, we are studying zebrafish mutants with hearing and balance defects. The aim of our research is to determine gene function by examining the mutants at multiple levels, including the behavioral, cellular, and physiological levels. Another major goal is to provide animal models of human deafness.
Recently, we have concentrated our efforts on developing innovative ways of characterizing our mutants. These new techniques include quantitation of the vestibulo-ocular reflex, measuring post-synaptic responses to mechanical stimulation of hair cells, and calcium imaging of hair-cell transients using localized genetic indicators. With these tools in hand, we are able to gain a better understanding of gene function and apply our findings to understanding the pathology of congenital deafness in humans.
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