Heller Laboratory
Stanford University

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About our Research

Our laboratory works on inner ear development and regeneration, as well as on the biology of sensory hair cells, the mechanosensitive cells of the inner ear.  We are located at Stanford University in the School of Medicine and affiliated with the Otolaryngology department.  We are proudly affiliated with the Stanford Initiative to Cure Hearing Loss and we thank all supporters of this endeavor.

We are interested how the inner ear develops from an early anlage called the otic placode. Our goal is to describe the otic lineage from an early placodal progenitor until it splits up in multiple cell types making up the sensory epithelia, innervating ganglia, and accessory structures.

In parallel, we apply knowledge we gained from guiding embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells along the otic lineage to find ways for treatment of hearing loss. This involves identification of mechanisms of sensory hair cell regeneration in animals such as chickens that recover naturally from hearing loss, screening for potential regenerative targets that can be activated with drugs, and exploring reprograming as well as cell transplantation strategies.

 

The image shown above depicts the embryonic mouse inner ear stained with an antibody to a protein that is specifically expressed in the otic lineage.  Postdoctoral fellow Byron Hartman is working on this ongoing project and provided this spectacular image.

We are affiliated with the following graduate and fellowship programs: Biology, Developmental Biology, Genetics, Molecular & Cellular Physiology, Neurosciences, Bioengineering, and Stem Cell Biology & Regenerative Medicine. If you are interested in rotating with us, please stop by the lab/office any time!

 

Joining our Lab

We are actively looking for a bioinformatics postdoctoral fellow to join our group in 2017 or earlier.  The successful candidate has a PhD in bioinformatics or computational biology.  Strong interest and creative ability in data presentation, computer animation, and enthusiasm for bioart/biocreativity is a requirement. We expect strong work ethics, vision, and ability to independently learn and implement new technologies.

If you are interested in joining our group, please send a single introductory paragraph and your CV to Stefan Heller at hellers@stanford.edu

 

Additional information for PhD students interested in joining us for Postdoctoral Research

Please contact me at least one year in advance of your desired start date.  Postdocs who have been doing well in my group bring exceptional motivation, clear communication skills, creativity, focus, and independence.  I encourage every single postdoc to apply for independent fellowships.  Stanford has strict rules on minimizing lengthy postdoctoral stints and discourages applications of candidates who already have more than 2 years experience.

 

Additional information for incoming graduate students

We currently welcome graduate students. If you are already at Stanford and interested in rotating with us, please email me.  If you are interested in the Stanford graduate programs, please read about the requirements at the Stanford Biosciences website.  We are affiliated with all home programs.  Please list me as a potential advisor when applying and please send me an email to introduce yourself.

 

Additional information for medical doctors interested in joining us for Postdoctoral Research

Please contact me at least one year in advance of your desired start date. Our research topics, historically, have been complex and require at least 2 years of dedicated focus. Postdocs on these short stints who have been doing well in the past were especially motivated, creative, and highly independent. You are expected to successfully apply for an independent full fellowship before you start in the lab. We rarely have funds to supplement fellowships.

 

Additional information for Stanford undergraduate students

We have opportunities for undergraduate research projects. I encourage undergraduates to explore the Amgen Scholars program, Bio-X, as well as the SURF program. Please email Dr. Heller if interested.

 

Additional information for high school students

We occasionally accept high school students for summer internships and encourage interested students to consult the Science Outreach programs website. We only accept students who successfully applied to one of the official Stanford programs such as SIMR.  If you are interested in such an internship, please contact Dr. Heller in early January.  Please note that most of the Stanford programs favor local high schools.

 

What we do?

We are focusing on three main questions.

More about us

How about Some Fun Facts about our laboratory?

5
Lab trips to the Utah desert
15
years since we began in Boston in 2000
14
Countries represented in the last 15 years in the lab
100%
of group members came back from lab desert hiking trips

Plenty of open questions in inner ear biology: how hearing really happens? Can we cure hearing loss?

Who are we?

Heller Laboratory

July 2015

lab2015_corrected

member photo

Stefan Heller

PI
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Andres Plata Stapper

Post-Doctoral Researcher
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Byron Hartman

Research Associate
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Daniel Ellwanger

Post-Doctoral Researcher
member photo

Giovanni Diaz

Graduate Student
member photo

Jörg Waldhaus

Post-Doctoral Researcher
member photo

Megan Ealy

Post-Doctoral Researcher
member photo

Melodyanne Cheng

Undergraduate Student
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Mirko Scheibinger

Post-Doctoral Researcher
member photo

Sabine Mann

Laboratory Manager
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Alumni

Previous Labmembers

How about Some Fun Facts about our laboratory?

261
Sunny days annually, on average in Palo Alto
87.5%
Success rate of our group for student and fellowship grant applications (21 of 24, since we started counting)
2
Six packs usually consumed during lab meeting
12406
qRT-PCR reactions done in the lab per week on average (last 12 months)

Our laboratory is located in the Edwards Building and stretches
from the first to the second floor

Work hard , Play hard

2015 Coyote Buttes North – The Wave and Glamping

2014 Coyote Gulch and more

2013 Memorial Day Weekend Lab trip

Buckskin Gulch 2012 – The Trailer

Buckskin Gulch 2011 – Mud, mud, and … mud

 

Publications

Here are some recent highlights

• Waldhaus, J.,Durruthy-Durruthy, R. & Heller, S. Quantitative High-Resolution Cellular Map of the Organ of Corti. Cell Reports 11:9 June (2015). http://www.cell.com/cell-reports/abstract/S2211-1247(15)00494-5

It is my opinion that this paper has the potential for a landmark paper in our field and beyond.  First, it clearly shows that single cell gene expression analysis and bioinformatic reconstruction methods are very precise and robust, therefore providing a credible tool for functional and mechanistic analyses.  We will definitely use this technology in coming years to explore cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate development and possibly also regeneration.  Second, the data shown in this paper clearly demonstrate that conventional in situ hybridizations are a method of the past – good bye in situs!  We initially submitted the manuscript to Neuron where it received one highly constructive review and two reviews indicating that the reviewers were not convinced of the robustness of our methods.  Neuron suggested to move the manuscript to their open-access partner journal Cell Reports.  There, the editor asked us to respond to the critiques raised in the Neuron reviews and the revised paper was accepted.  Beside the high publication cost (5K!), Cell Reports seems to be a reasonable journal – proofing and dealing with the production crew was a breeze, probably also because I was out of town and Jörg and Robert took care of dealing with this process ;-).  Congratulations to both for this fine piece of work!

 

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Older publications

A list of all lab publications can be accessed via this link.

 

Are you ready?

Get in Touch

Lab hike 2012

The Heller Lab Blog

Happy New Year – January 2016

I wish everybody a successful, happy, and healthy new year.  It is the time for New Year’s Resolutions and probably the most…

June update

June came quickly and we are almost half through 2015.  If someone has a pill that slows down time, please let me…

March update

It is the last day of March 2015 and I can quite honestly say that I truly enjoy my work, the collaborative…

November update

November 2014, a sunny day in Palo Alto and I finally find some time to update our lab blog.  A nasty cold…

 

Contact Us

300 Pasteur Drive, Edwards R123, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94315, United States

+650 721 1032
hellers@stanford.edu