PiN Faculty Member - Zheng-Yi Chen, DPhil

Zheng-Yi Chen, D Phil

Associate Professor of Neurology

Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary
Eaton-Peabody Laboratory
243 Charles Street
Boston, MA 2114
Tel: 617-543-3673
Fax: 617-720-4408

Hearing loss is a severe public health issue affecting a large portion of population.

The research of my laboratory can be divided into following parts: a) functional genomics of hearing; b) inner ear cell regeneration; c) development of mouse model for hearing preservation against noise and aging; d) development of gene therapy for genetic deafness. Our long-term goals are to identify genes and functional pathways that govern normal development and disease state of the inner ear, and develop new therapeutical approach to protect and restore hearing and vestibular function.

To identify genes and pathways important in inner ear development and function, we used microarray and deep sequencing to study the gene expression profiles of developing mouse vestibular organ, and purified hair cells, the inner ear sensory cells that detect sound and sense balance. We identified genes and pathways in individual inner ear cell types that are likely to be involved in progenitor cell specification, cell fate determination and differentiation and inner ear function. Many genes are being screened for mutations in genetic deafness.

Hearing loss and balance disorders are permanent because mammalian hair cells become postmitotic during early embryonic development and the inner ear lacks the capacity of regeneration after hair cell loss. Using functional genomics we identified retinoblastoma gene (Rb1) that can be manipulated to regenerate hair cells in young mammalian inner ear. By studying natural hair cell regeneration in chick and zebrafish models we identified additional pathways that are essential to hair cell regeneration in adult mammalian inner ear. We are using transgenic models, bioengineering and pharmacological approaches to achieve hair cell regeneration in adult and aged mouse inner ear for hearing recovery.

We have developed a transgenic mouse model that is protected from age-related and noise-induced hearing loss, by promoting hair cell survival. We are screening for small molecules that can achieve similar effects, to serve as drug candidates for hearing preservation. In addition we have identified viral vectors that can infect distinct inner ear cell types, and are in the process of using them to deliver genes into inner ear to correct genetic deafness.

Last Update: 5/7/2014


For a complete listing of publications click here.



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