Evan Ratzan is a PhD candidate in the Neuroscience program at the University of Utah where he studies the development of the inner ear. Specifically, he examines polarized cellular patterning in the vestibular organs. These organs are lined with mechanotransductive hair cells which are distinctly polarized to sense deflection in a particular vector. The utricle and saccule (vestibular maculae) provide our brain with a sense of gravity and acceleration to the brain. Evan uses genetic manipulation, fluorescence microscopy, and quantitative analysis in order to identify the molecular mechanisms which polarize hair cells in the vestibular maculae.
In addition to his PhD research, Evan is also completing a Master’s in Clinical Investigations. He hopes that the novel discoveries about the developmental processes in the embryonic ear can one day translate to improved treatments/diagnostic approaches for human patients. While modern approaches to gene therapy, hair cell regeneration, and stem cell replacement therapies are in their nascent stages, they all depend on firm understanding of developmental neurobiology.