CAMBRIDGE, MA. 05.04.2012

The winner of the 2012 Helen Carr Peake Research Assistantship is Mr. Yen-fu Cheng. A doctoral student, Mr. Chen has won Peake recognition as a result of outstanding research in stem cell biology and engineering. Mr. Cheng is supervised by Dr. Albert Edge in the Harvard Medical School Department of Otology and Laryngology at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, and is currently a graduate student in the Harvard-MIT Speech and Hearing Biosciences and Technology Program.

Mr. Cheng completed his medical degree in otolaryngology residency training in Taiwan with a continuing interest in the study of the regeneration of inner ear. At Karolinska Insitute he worked in stem cell biology with a special interest in human embryonic stem cells and their differentiation to neuronal derivatives, and has extended this work at MIT. His dissertation research concerns enhancing hair cell differentiation by the manipulation of signaling pathways regulating the transcription factor, Atoh1 and applying this knowledge to inner ear regeneration. Because of the established role of Atoh1 as a regulator of hair cell differentiation, manipulation of the pathways that increase Atoh1 expression could provide a route to hair cell replacement by engineering inner ear stem cells to hair cells. Mr. Cheng plans that his training in neuroscience and clinical issues will provide a strong basis for his continuing efforts in stem cell engineering.

The Helen Carr Peake Fund, which supports this award, was established to honor the late wife of Professor William T. Peake. The selection of this year’s recipient was done by a committee consisting of Dr. M. Charles Liberman (Director EPL), Professor Timothy Lu, Professor Mehmet Fatih Yanik, and Professor Yoel Fink (Committee Chair).