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 actively looking for a bioinformatics postdoctoral fellow. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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.
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.
Who are we?
Current Laboratory Members:
• Scheibinger, M., Ellwanger, D.C., Corrales, C.E., Stone, J.S., and Heller, S. Aminoglycoside damage and hair cell regeneration in the chicken utricle. J Assoc Res Otolaryngology, 19, 17-29. doi: 10.1007/s10162-017-0646-4 (2018). https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10162-017-0646-4
Congratulations to postdoc Mirko for his first first author paper in the Heller laboratory. This work is the foundation of ongoing work that utilizes single cell transcriptomics to elucidate the mechanisms of hair cell regeneration in the chicken utricle. It also is the first manuscript of the laboratory on chicken hair cell regeneration, which is currently evolving into a major research focus. I am grateful to the Hearing Health Foundation and the Stanford Initiative to Cure Hearing Loss for funding this project.
• Lee, J., Böscke, R., Tang, P.C., Hartman, B.H., Heller, S, and Koehler, K.R. Hair follicle development in mouse pluripotent stem cell-derived skin organoids. Cell Reports, 22, 242-254. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2017.12.007. (2018). Link to the paper in Cell Reports
When postdocs Robert Böscke and Byron Hartman showed me that their experiments using the inner ear organoid formation protocol published by Karl Koehler and Eri Hashino a few years ago was producing in relatively robust fashion what looked like mouse hair follicles, I first thought that they are joking. Well, no joke, the protocol that has now been used by several laboratories to produce inner ear cell types can be tweaked and steered towards production of skin including hair follicles. Is our lab now in the hair growing business? Certainly not. But our collaborators at Indiana University are very serious about pursuing this finding further. Wouldn’t it be great if this can be translated to humans? I am happy that we were able to contribute to this story. What I found fascinating is that the fundamental findings were obtained independently in my laboratory and in Karl’s laboratory – what a great validation! I am also thankful to all scientists involved in this study for their collaborative spirit. Instead of competing, we decided to work together. This saved resources, reduced anxiety, and resulted in my mind in a better story.
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