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Dr. Alan Cheng received his B.S. in Biomedical Engineering at the Johns Hopkins University, graduating Phi Beta Kappa and Tau Beta Pi. He then received his M.D. degree from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and graduated with distinction in research in otobiology. Dr. Cheng pursued his residency training in Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at University of Washington. During residency, he undertook a two-year NIH-sponsored research fellowship investigating mechanisms of hair cell degeneration. After residency he sought fellowship training in pediatric otolaryngology in Children's Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School. Alan Cheng joined the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at Stanford University as a surgeon-scientist in 2007. His clinical practice based at the Stanford Ear Institute and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital focuses on otologic diseases including congenital hearing loss and cochlear implantation, and chronic ear diseases in the pediatric population. In parallel, his research program focuses on inner ear hair cell development and regeneration. He has received funding from NIH, Department of Defense, the American Otological Society, and California Institute for Regenerative Medicine for this research endeavor.
The overarching goal of our research group is to restore/protect auditory function. The irreversible loss of mechanosensitive hair cells in the cochlea causes permanent hearing loss. Mammals lack the ability to spontaneously regenerate hair cells and restore hearing. Wnt signaling is a recurrent theme playing crucial roles in the development of multicellular organisms as well as tissue and cellular homeostasis including the maintenance of stem/progenitor cells. To understand how to regenerate the inner ear, our group has been studying Wnt-responsive progenitor cells in the mammalian cochlea. We take in vitro and in vivo approaches to study the behavior of these putative progenitor cells both during development and after damage in the mature animal. In particular, we are interested in how cell fate decision is made when these progenitor cells differentiate and how Wnt signaling (and other signals) directly and indirectly affects their decision. Techniques include genetic and pharmacologic manipulations, flow cytometry, cell and organotypic cultures, and confocal and time-lapse imaging, single cell and whole animal physiological testing.A second direction of our laboratory is to understand how the aminoglycoside antibiotics enter the inner ear. These commonly prescribed antibiotics selectively damage inner ear hair cells leading to hearing loss. We are interested in understanding how it enters the blood-labyrinth barrier and its subsequent transport into hair cells. One main focus is to re-design aminoglycosides to preclude their entry into the inner ear.