Zheng Lab

The research in Dr. Zheng’s laboratory focuses on a number of areas in genetics, genomics and proteomics of ear diseases in mice and human.

Although the human and mouse genomes have been sequenced, much still remains to be understood about how genes are regulated. Dr. Zheng has established a methodology combining genomics and proteomics to study gene expression in mouse inner ears. He and his colleagues have developed a novel SSUMM approach (Subtractive Strategy Using Mouse Mutants, Zheng et al., Brain Research, 2006).

SSUMM takes advantage of the differences between control and affected or mutant samples. He proves that SSUMM is a useful method in proteomics, especially in those cases in which the investigator must work with small numbers of diverse cell types from a tiny organ. The overall aim of these studies is to discover genes and molecular pathways that are involved in disease processes in mouse models of human deafness.

Otitis media (OM), an inflammation of the middle ear, accounts for over 22 million visits to physicians in the U.S. every year. Mouse models of OM represent powerful tools for advancing the understanding of OM (Zheng et al., Brain Research, 2006). Dr. Zheng’s lab is interested in identifying novel genes and/or novel functions of known genes that underlie OM susceptibility using a functional genomics and phenotype driven approach. These genetic mouse models may be used to develop innovative treatment strategies for human OM.

Usher syndrome is the most common condition that involves both hearing and vision problems. Mouse models make it easier to determine the function of the various genes involved in the disease. Understanding the functions of the genes that cause Usher syndrome will lead to improved genetic counseling and early diagnosis, and may eventually expand treatment options. Dr. Zheng and colleagues reported his discovery that interaction of two Usher syndrome genes causes a new type of later-onset hearing impairment both in humans and mice (Zheng et al., Hum Mol Genet, 2005). Based on the findings from his mouse experiments, a digenic inheritance of the USH1 phenotype in three unrelated families with mutations in CDH23 and PCDH15 was also discovered, thus proving the power of mouse genetics to help understand human genetic problems.

Dr. Zheng's current research group