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Research Abstracts Online
January 2008 - March 2009

University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Medical School
Department of Otolaryngology

PI: Jizhen Lin

Mucous Cell Metaplasia in Pneumococcal Otitis Media

Otitis media is one of the most common causes for visits to the emergency room and the second ranking for visits to a physician’s office in the United States, costing the nation over 4 billion dollars annually. By three years of age, 80% of all children in the United States have had at least one episode of otitis media, and 50% have had at least three episodes. Approximately 5-10% of children with acute otitis media develop chronic otitis media with effusion.

One of the histologic hallmarks with chronic otitis media is mucous cell metaplasia/hyperplasia in the middle ear that is progressive, irreversible, and destructive, which frequently leads to hearing loss. The pathogenesis of mucous cell metaplasia/hyperplasia in the middle ear mucosa is poorly understood, so there is no effective treatment. This project studies the molecular mechanisms of mucous cell metaplasia induced by middle ear pathogens, especially pneumococcus, using cellular and molecular biology techniques. The project has three step: first, identify pneumococcal virulent components that trigger mucous cell metaplasia using animal models; second, determine the cellular events (receptors and signaling proteins) that mediate mucous cell metaplasia/hyperplasia; and third, determine transcription factors that drive the basal cells in middle ear into proliferation and differentiation to mucous or goblet cells. These studies will not only improve our understanding of otitis media but also provide innovative therapeutic strategies for prevention and treatment of otitis media in the future.