Ph.D., Duke University
One of my research projects within the Section on Developmental Neuroscience is focused on cochlear morphogenesis. The mature auditory epithelium comprises hair cells and supporting cells in a highly ordered mosaic. This mosaic is formed during development by coordinated processes of cell rearrangement, cell growth, and changes in cell shape. We use live imaging of mouse embryonic cochlear explant cultures with individual fluorescently labeled cells to visualize the activity and movements of cells within the developing auditory epithelium. Time-lapse videos show that both hair cells and supporting cells exhibit considerable protrusive activity, suggesting that cochlear morphogenesis is an active—not passive—process. Continuing work on this project seeks to determine which genes regulate the many aspects of cellular movement that contribute to the formation of the auditory epithelium.