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 is an artistic view of E15 utricle hair bundles overlaid with CellTrails-inspired art. SEM credit goes to Rachel Dumont and Peter Barr-Gillespie (OHSU and the Vollum Institute). CellTrails maps and artistic rendering was done by Daniel Ellwanger.

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 currently looking for a Stanford Undergraduate Student who wants to join us for a 1-2 year ongoing part-time research project.  We are asking for a 6-10 hours per week commitment and offer the opportunity to do full time research during the summer months (2020, 2021). We expect strong work ethics, a certain level of independence, and strong interest in laboratory science.

If you are interested in joining our group, please send a single introductory paragraph and your CV to Dr. Marie Kubota and Dr. Stefan Heller:  kubomari[at]stanford.edu and hellers[at]stanford.edu

 

If you are interested in joining the lab, please find details and additional information here.

 

What we do?

We are focusing on three main questions.

More about us

How about Some Fun Facts about our laboratory?

7
Backpacking trips to the Utah desert
18
years since we began in Boston in 2000
19
Countries represented in the last 16 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

June 2019

Current Laboratory Members:

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Stefan Heller

PI
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Amanda Janesick

Post-Doctoral Researcher
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Giovanni Diaz

Graduate Student
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John (Johnny) Butchko

Undergraduate Student, AG Bell STEMM-HEAR Summer Researcher
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Marie Kubota

Post-Doctoral Researcher
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Mirko Scheibinger

Post-Doctoral Researcher
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Nesrine Benkafadar

Post-Doctoral Researcher
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Sabine Mann

Laboratory Manager
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Sonia Monti

Undergraduate Student - Scientific Visualization
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Taha Jan

Post-Doctoral Researcher, Clinical Fellow
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Tom Pritsky

Undergraduate Student
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Alumni

Previous Labmembers

How about Some Fun Facts?

261
Sunny days annually, on average in Palo Alto
79%
Success rate of our group for student and fellowship grant applications (26 of 33, since we started counting
3
Research presentations done per lab member on average every year
>100
important open questions in inner ear biology

Our laboratory is located in the Edwards Building  —  We will move in early 2020 to the new Biomedical Innovations Building

Work hard , Play hard

2018 Canyonlands National Park

2017 Finally to the Golden Cathedral plus more

2016 Cedar Mesa – Grand Gulch and some more canyons

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

 

• Janesick, Amanda S. and Heller, Stefan. Stem Cells and the Bird Cochlea – Where is Everybody?  Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine, doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a033183 (2018). Link to the paper.

In this perspective, we describe different mechanisms of hair cell regeneration in the avian cochlea and argue that there is no doubt that cochlear hair cell regeneration in birds is driven by stem cells.  With all this evidence for stem cells, the question remains:  Where are they?  This short essay pretty much outlines the need for a thorough analysis of hair cell regeneration in the bird inner ear.

• Hartman, Byron H.; Böscke, Robert; Ellwanger, Daniel C.; Keymeulen, Sawa; Scheibinger, Mirko and Heller, Stefan. Fbxo2VHC mouse and embryonic stem cell reporter lines delineate in vitro-generated inner ear sensory epithelia and enable otic lineage selection and Cre-recombination. Dev Biol, 443; 64-77 (2018). Link to the paper in Dev Biol.

In this paper, we describe a set of tools for generating multicistronic reporter lines that consist of fluorescent proteins, hygromycin selection, and Cre-based lineage labeling.  We showcase one version of this toolset with a knock-in mouse model for the Fbxo2 gene, a specific and highly expressed otic lineage marker that Byron discovered and originally described a while back.  The knock-in mouse model validated the already published gene expression pattern for Fbxo2 and moreover, it revealed additional details.  Interestingly, Byron found that inner ear organoids, generated from Fbxo2VHC mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs) showed exceptionally strong Venus-fluorescence labeling of sensory epithelia cells and their progenitors.  This reporter mouse and the ESCs from this mouse model are therefore quite useful tools for a number of follow up experiments such as enrichment of stem cell-based progenitors and more in-depth characterization of the transcriptomic phenotype of otic progenitor cells.

 

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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

Software Implementations

• CellTrails (via this link)

• Heller lab simple guide to single cell analysis (coming soon)

Plasmids

• Addgene (via this link)

The Heller Lab Blog

September 2019

It does not seem to be difficult to write an update once in a while, but – well – it obviously is…

May 21

My goal for this year is to provide more frequent updates. Congratulations to Amanda for being selected as recipient of an A.P.…

April 2018

Another year went by.  Here are some highlights. Postdoc Mirko Scheibinger got the February cover of JARO with his paper describing the…

May 2017

A sign of life!  The silence was an indication that we have been busy.  I just wanted to post here that a longer…

 

Contact Us

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

+650 721 1032
hellers@stanford.edu