Erin Jimenez is an assistant professor in the Department of Biology whose research focuses on uncovering gene regulatory networks involved in vertebrate inner ear regeneration. She received her PhD in Biology from Johns Hopkins University and completed her postdoctoral work at the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health.
When discussing the use of animal models, their biological similarities are often emphasized, but it is equally true that differences between model organisms and humans can be leveraged for important scientific discoveries. One area where that has become increasingly true is regenerative biology. Zebrafish are highly regenerative and one of the very interesting cell types it can regenerate but mammals cannot is the mechanosensory receptors of the inner ear that detect sound and control balance. These receptors, known as “hair cells,” regenerate completely in zebrafish and other non-mammalian vertebrates after being destroyed or damaged, while in mammals, hair cell death results in permanent hearing loss or vestibular dysfunction. To understand hearing regeneration, it is essential to understand how genes respond to injury and how those responses are controlled in the genome.
To study this phenomenon, research in the Jimenez laboratory is focused on understanding the zebrafish hair cell regeneration program at the regulatory level and delineating the critical epigenetic differences between a regenerating and non-regenerating animal to shed light on potential strategies to “reactivate” hair cell regeneration in mammals.
Please visit the Jimenez Lab Website for more information.
Jimenez, E. and Bhandiwad, A. (2023). Zebrafish as a Key to Unlocking Human Genetic Diseases of Hearing. Acoustics Today. https://doi.org/10.1121/AT.2023.19.1.20.
Jimenez, E., Slevin, C. C., Song, W., Chen, Z., Frederickson, S., Wu, W., Gildea, D., Elkahloun, A.G., Ovcharenko, I., Burgess, S. M. (2022). A regulatory network of Sox and Six transcription factors initiate a cell fate transformation during hearing regeneration in adult zebrafish. Cell Genomics. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.xgen.2022.100170.
Jimenez, E., Slevin, C. C., Colón-Cruz, L., & Burgess, S. M. (2021). Vestibular and auditory hair cell regeneration following targeted ablation of hair cells with diphtheria toxin in zebrafish. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 15(333). https://doi.org/10.3389/fncel.2021.721950.
The Jimenez Lab is accepting graduate students.