The focus of research in the Cellular Biophysics Laboratory is on

  • the ion transport processes that are utilized by the epithelial cells of the inner ear to produce the fluid composition necessary for normal hearing and balance and on
  • the regulatory mechanisms employed by these cells.

Homeostatic mechanisms are studied at the level of

  • the whole organ,
  • separate epithelial cell types and
  • single cells and membranes.

Recent projects include the study of

  • Calcium (Ca2+) absorption mechanisms that protect sensory hair cells from Ca2+ overload and the relationship to acid/base balance;
  • Sodium (Na+) absorption mechanisms that protect sensory hair cells from Na+ overload and the relationship to physiologic and therapeutic corticosteroids;
  • The effects of gene mutations on hearing and balance.

Experimental approaches utilized include:

  • Measurement of the transepithelial electric current and ion fluxes across small, well-defined areas of transporting epithelia from both the cochlea and the vestibular labyrinth using vibrating/self-referencing electrodes;
  • Measurement of the conductive properties of inner ear cell membranes by several configurations of the patch clamp technique. Several of these techniques are unique within the field of inner ear research.
  • Gene expression studies involving gene microarray, RT-PCR (reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction), and western blots for genes responsible for solute transport or participate in signal cascades for regulation of transport.