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Phillip Uribe’s Three Minute Thesis

Using Fish to Prevent Hearing Loss

Ten million Americans suffer from profound hearing loss, a condition that affects their ability to communicate and interact with our noisy world. From construction workers to soldiers, many individuals are often exposed to harmful loud noises in the workplace. Excessive noise exposure causes permanent hearing loss due to death of sensory hair cells within the inner ear. Currently, no effective pharmacological therapies exist to prevent noise damage. To increase the rate of drug discovery, we need an efficient pipeline for the identification of compounds that protect hair cells from acoustic trauma. Mammalian models of noise-induced hearing loss have disadvantages due to inaccessibility of the inner ear, which prevents rapid assessment of hair cell survival. In contrast, larval zebrafish are an accessible tool for hair cell loss and protection research. Zebrafish posses an externally located lateral line system containing clusters of hair cells which can be rapidly assessed and are similar to mammalian inner ear hair cells. Previous work studying drug-induced hearing loss has demonstrated that drugs that protect zebrafish hair cells also protect mammalians hair cells. In the lab, I have developed a novel system to expose zebrafish to loud noises that mimics conditions likely to cause hearing loss in humans. This work extends the utility of zebrafish as a model to study and prevent hearing loss. Future work is centered on identifying drugs that prevent noise damage in zebrafish with the goal of preventing hearing loss in humans.

Phillip Uribe


Phil is a fourth year Ph. D candidate in the Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience department. He works in the lab of Dr. Allison Coffin at WSU Vancouver. He received a B.S. in Biology from University of California, Irvine prior to arriving at WSUV. His research focuses on studying the death of sensory hearing cells and developing ways to preserve these cells to maintain functional hearing.