Z-EAR – Zebrafish as a screening tool for regenerative therapies in hearing loss

Hearing loss is a prevalent sensory disorder that has no treatment. In adult mammals, auditory hair cells death due to medications, aging, and noise exposure is irreversible and can lead to deafness. In contrast, nonmammalian animals such as zebrafish are able to spontaneously regenerate their hair cells and recover hearing after an injury.

In this way, the general aim of the Z-EAR R&D project is to identify the unexplored pathways involved in hair cells regeneration that could be targeted in the future to promote the formation of new functional hair cells in deaf patients.

To do this, in collaboration with Dr. Farida Djouad and Dr. Dora Sapede (Institute for Regenerative Medicine and Biotherapy) and AZELEAD, a start-up company specialized in Zebrafish drug screening, we are developping a zebrafish model of auditory hair cell depletion.

Importantly, we will take advantage of this model in which hair cell regeneration can be easily assessed to design a high throughput screening test that will identify molecules of interest for the development of novel therapeutic strategies against human hearing loss. This model will allow us to determine quickly and efficiently the effect of new drug candidates implicated in hair cell regeneration.

Altogether the results obtained will represent a major breakthrough in our understanding of how hair cells regenerate and bring new insights into regenerative medicine.