Prof. Karen Avraham

Genomics and Therapeutics of Hereditary Hearing Loss



Genomic Analysis of Hereditary Hearing Loss

Our primary interest is the genetic basis of hereditary hearing loss or deafness. Our group is working towards the identification, characterization and regulation of genes associated with hereditary hearing loss. For gene discovery, we focus on the Israeli Jewish and Palestinian Arab populations in the Middle East. Our studies have encompassed the prevalence of connexin 26 mutations in these populations, the most common form of deafness, to the identification of mutations in over 30 genes, since this is a genetically heterogeneous disease. We are employing deep sequencing, also known as massively parallel sequencing, to identify mutations using the latest genomic technology.


Our work has provided the link between gene discovery and clinical diagnosis in genetic clinics in medical centers throughout Israel. In addition, we have studied the auditory and vestibular systems of a dozen mouse mutants, focusing on mutation identification, morphological and functional analysis of the organ of Corti and its cells, and behavioral analysis of hearing and balance disorders. This has allowed us to define the pathways leading to deafness in mouse models for human deafness. Most recently, we have demonstrated that microRNAs are essential for development and function of inner ear hair cells in vertebrates through microRNA expression, mouse mutants and target identification.


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