Studying how the unique architecture of inner ear sensory cells is maintained against aging
I am a Ph.D. candidate at Tufts University School of Medicine conducting my thesis research in the Tarchini Lab at JAX. I study the sensory cells of the inner ear that allow us to hear, balance, and orient ourselves in space. We are born with a sparse population of non-renewable sensory "hair" cells (named for their unique cytoskeletal architecture) that we must maintain across our lifespan. Many deafness-associated genetic variants affect hair cell structure, either during development in the case of congenital deafness or in adult maintenance in the case of age-related hearing loss. I hypothesize that certain factors integral to hair cell development remain involved into adulthood and contribute to the steady-state structural maintenance of these cells. My goal is to gain insight as to how we might preserve sensory cell function with age, thus extending the healthspan of our aging population.