Mark Rudolf, MS, Biomedical Engineering, University of Michigan Ann Arbor
Loud noise and ototoxic drugs kill sensory hair cells in the inner ear, causing hearing loss and balance disorders in millions of Americans. In fish, birds, and other non-mammals, neighboring supporting cells proliferate and differentiate into replacement hair cells, allowing recovery of these senses throughout life. In contrast, supporting cells in mammals lose their ability to regenerate hair cells with age. This raises a fundamental question: What hinders the ability of supporting cells to regenerate hair cells in mature mammals? Mark is studying the role of mechanical signals in sensing and responding to hair cell death, with the ultimate goal of uncovering new strategies to spur hair cell regeneration in mammals.