Genetic Control of Hair Cell Regeneration-Chen Laboratory

Studies in the Chen laboratory focus on 1) functional genomics of hearing, 2) inner ear hair cell regeneration, and 3) inner ear stem cell biology.

The team takes a functional genomics approach to systematically study gene expression patterns during mouse inner ear development. This analysis enables them to identify the key pathways underlying different aspects of inner ear development including patterning, cell fate determination, differentiation, function and aging.

Mammalian inner ear lacks the capacity to regenerate hair cells. Using functional genomics approach, the lab identified the retinoblastoma gene (Rb1) as a gene essential in cell cycle exit and postmitotic maintenance of hair cells, with a potential in hair cell regeneration.


They are studying chick and zebrafish models and have identified key pathways involved in hair cell regeneration. They are interested in manipulating those pathways in mouse model to achieve hair cell regeneration and hearing improvement. In addition, they are interested in using reprogramming of terminally differentiated inner ear cells as a method for hair cell regeneration.

The functional genomics analysis of mouse and chick inner ear has identified a large number of progenitor genes with potential roles in inner ear stem cells. The lab is interested in evaluating their roles using shRNA and overexpression approaches. This study will help to identify the origin of inner ear stem cells and to facilitate the work using inner ear stem cells for hair cell regeneration.