Heller Laboratory
Stanford University

Learn More

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!

We are actively looking for a postdoctoral fellow to join our group in 2016.  The successful candidate should have a strong interest in solving open questions how fate decisions in the developing and regenerating inner ear are being orchestrated. We expect strong work ethics, creativity, and ability to independently learn and implement new technologies.  Interest in computational analysis methods of single cell transcriptome data is a requirement.

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

What we do?

We are focusing on three main questions.

More about us

How about Some Fun Facts about our laboratory?

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

Hair cell-like cells generated in vitro
from mouse iPS cells

Who are we?

Heller Laboratory

March 2014


member photo

Stefan Heller

member photo

Andres Plata Stapper

Post-Doctoral Researcher
member photo

Byron Hartman

Post-Doctoral Researcher
member photo

Eun Jin Son

Post-Doctoral Researcher/Visiting Professor
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
member photo

Mirko Scheibinger

Post-Doctoral Researcher
member photo

Robert Böscke

Post-Doctoral Researcher
member photo

Robert Durruthy-Durruthy

Post-Doctoral Researcher
member photo

Steven Losorelli

Biology Student
member photo

Sabine Mann

Laboratory Manager
member photo

Sabrina Ahmad

Postdoctoral Program Administrator
member photo

Chelsey Perry

Grants Administrator
member photo


Previous Labmembers

How about Some Fun Facts about our laboratory?

Sunny days annually, on average in Palo Alto
Success rate of our group for student and fellowship grant applications (18 of 21)
Six packs usually consumed during lab meeting
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

2014 Coyote Gulch and more

2013 Memorial Day Weekend Lab trip

Buckskin Gulch 2012 – The Trailer

Buckskin Gulch 2011 – Mud, mud, and … mud

This section of the website is still under construction. Please stay tuned!



Here are some recent highlights

• Durruthy-Durruthy, R., Gottlieb, A. & Heller, S. 3D computational reconstruction of tissues with hollow spherical morphologies using single-cell gene expression data. Nature Protocols 10, 459-474 (2015). http://www.nature.com/nprot/journal/v10/n3/full/nprot.2015.022.html

This paper is a follow up on last year’s paper published in Cell.  We were not able to provide detailed step-by-step instructions about the 3D reconstruction method in the original publication, but we thought that the method would be useful to others.  3 of the 4 reviewers agreed with this view, but it took a while to convince the fourth reviewer.  If one follows the topics of the lab’s publications, there is an emerging theme of combining novel ideas for bioinformatics data analysis and visualization with important questions in inner ear biology.  The current revolution of single cell transcriptomics is going to impact our field enormously.















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

November update

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

July update

Half way through the year and it is time for an update. Research is tagging along nicely and several projects are now…

April update

It is incredible how quickly time passes, ⅓ of 2014 is already gone by. The month of April was important at many…

A detailed analysis of the early embryonic inner ear

For our laboratory, it is always a special moment when we publish a paper in a high-ranking journal. Today is one of…


Contact Us

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

+650 721 1032