David W. Raible, PhD
We are interested in the development of the peripheral nervous system using zebrafish as a model. Current research focuses on two areas: sensory neurons derived from neural crest and the mechanosensory lateral line system.
Sensory neurogenesis: Peripheral sensory neurons are generated from neural crest cells, a migratory population with stem cell properties. Forward genetic screens have identified a set of mutations that block the earliest steps of neurogenesis. Our studies should shed light on the molecular pathways that regulate cell specification, using a combination of genetics, embryology, microscopy and molecular manipulation.
Lateral line system: Loss of mechanosensory hair cells in the inner ear is the leading cause of hearing loss. We are using the zebrafish lateral line system to understand how hair cells develop, why they are susceptible to damage and how they are regenerated after insult, a property unfortunately not found in humans. The lateral line system is composed of a series of mechanosensory organs that share molecular and cellular properties with those of the inner ear. Their location on the surface of the body allows easy manipulation and visualization. We examine the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the development, death and regeneration of these hair cells.