Omar Akil, PhD

Title(s)Associate Professor, Otolaryngology
SchoolSchool of Medicine
Address2340 Sutter Street
San Francisco CA 94115
ORCID ORCID Icon0000-0001-6148-1985 Additional info
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    Omar Akil, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Saul and Ida Epstein Laboratory in the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Akil received his doctoral degree in Biochemistry and Enzymology from the University of Casablanca Morocco. After working as a government administrator in Morocco for two years, he moved to Johns Hopkins where he started his research training, working on the mammalian cochlea and exploring the basis of efferent neuronal transmission and outer hair cell function in the inner ear. Dr. Akil moved to University of California San Francisco in 2004, where he began investigating hearing loss in mouse models of human genetic and acquired form of deafness. His recent work has focused specifically on the restoration of hearing in mice models of human genetic of hearing loss using virally mediated gene therapy.

    Research Interests:
    Molecular biology of hearing and balance, auditory hair cell physiology, genetic deafness, gene therapy and hair cell protection.

    The primary focus of our lab is the study of the molecular mechanisms of efferent control of the auditory system. There are currently a number of ongoing projects related to this topic, including the role of saposins and synucleins in the auditory system.

    Our current work focuses on:
    1. Investigating hearing loss in mouse models of human genetic and acquired form of deafness. We use a multidisciplinary approaches, including molecular biology, mouse genetics, mouse behavior, eletrophysiological recording, immunolabeling, histology and others methods in order to understand the important role of a protein involvement in the normal function of the cochlea and vestibular system. Our research should help understand how malfunctions of these proteins contribute to sensorineural hearing loss and balance disorder. Increasing knowledge of the underlying molecular and genetic mechanisms that lead to hearing loss and vestibular system dysfunction raises the possibility for novel therapeutics, such as those based on gene transfer and related methods that influence gene expression in affected tissues.

    2. Attempting to restore hearing to mice models of human genetic of hearing loss using virally mediated gene therapy. This work stems from an initial study in which our lab demonstrated that the inner hair cell glutamate-transporter VGLUT3 is integral to the development of hearing, while a mutation of the transporter causes early profound hearing loss. In follow-up studies, we demonstrated that virally mediated gene therapy can successfully restore the hearing phenotype in a mouse model of genetic deafness. Based on this work, we are currently exploring additional models of genetic deafness to see if these results can be duplicated. It is thus reasonable to predict that the successful treatment approaches increasingly being reported in mouse models of hearing loss will establish a framework for developing gene replacement therapies in humans.

    In addition, our interdisciplinary research includes collaboration with:
    1. Dr. Tamara Alliston, an orthopedic surgery researcher at UCSF. We are interested in studying cochlear otic capsule development and the role of material properties of bone in hearing. Using animal models and molecular techniques applied to bone growth and development, we are examining how the material properties of bone enclosing the inner ear may contribute to hearing or hearing loss. This work may help further understanding of how metabolic abnormalities cause certain types of hearing loss, including otosclerosis, Padget’s disease, and other conditions that cause defective bone development.

    2. Dr. Catherine Giacomini A pharmacologist from the Department of Biopharmaceutical Sciences at UCSF. We are studying the mechanism(s) underlying hearing loss caused by platinum-based chemotherapies, investigating and designing novel otoprotective strategies for cisplatin therapy and examining the otoxicity of newly developed platinum compounds intended for use in chemotherapy.

    3. Drs. Said Saffeddine and Christine Petit, from the department of Genetics and Physiology of Haring in the Pasteur Institute France. For several years we have collaborated with these investigators on several projects focusing on restoration of hearing and vestibular function using virally mediated gene therapy in mouse models of human genetic hearing loss - the most recent of these being a model of Usher’s syndrome.

    Techniques Used in the Lab
    1. Specialized eletrophysiological recordings for hearing functions in mice including auditory brainstem responses (ABR), compound action potentials (CAP), distortion product oto-acoustic emissions (DPOAE), and contra-lateral suppression DPOAEs.
    2. Standard molecular biology techniques (e.g., molecular cloning, library preparations, RT-PCR, quantitative PCR etc.)
    3. Cochlea section and whole mount immunofuorescence and Histological methods
    4. Electron Microscopy (TEM, SEM)
    5. Viral and chemical delivery to the mouse inner ear (Postnatal day P1-3 and >P10)

    Education and Training:
    • BS: University Hassan II Casablanca, Morocco - General Biology
    • MS: University Hassan II Casablanca, Morocco: Biochemistry, Cellular Biology
    • PhD: University Hassan II Casablanca, Morocco: Biochemistry, Cellular Biology - Biochemistry/ Enzymology

    Awards and Honors:
    • 1998 High honor and jury congratulations for PhD thesis

    Collapse Bibliographic 
    Collapse Publications
    Publications listed below are automatically derived from MEDLINE/PubMed and other sources, which might result in incorrect or missing publications. Researchers can login to make corrections and additions, or contact us for help. to make corrections and additions.
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    1. Neurotrophin gene therapy to promote survival of spiral ganglion neurons after deafness. Hear Res. 2020 09 01; 394:107955. Leake PA, Akil O, Lang H. PMID: 32331858; PMCID: PMC7660539.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 3     Fields:    
    2. Dual and triple AAV delivery of large therapeutic gene sequences into the inner ear. Hear Res. 2020 09 01; 394:107912. Akil O. PMID: 32067799.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 3     Fields:    
    3. Clarin-1 expression in adult mouse and human retina highlights a role of Müller glia in Usher syndrome. J Pathol. 2020 02; 250(2):195-204. Xu L, Bolch SN, Santiago CP, Dyka FM, Akil O, Lobanova ES, Wang Y, Martemyanov KA, Hauswirth WW, Smith WC, Handa JT, Blackshaw S, Ash JD, Dinculescu A. PMID: 31625146; PMCID: PMC7003947.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 4     Fields:    Translation:HumansAnimalsCells
    4. Cochlear Gene Therapy. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2019 09 03; 9(9). Lustig L, Akil O. PMID: 30323014; PMCID: PMC6719588.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 6     Fields:    Translation:HumansAnimals
    5. AAV-Mediated Neurotrophin Gene Therapy Promotes Improved Survival of Cochlear Spiral Ganglion Neurons in Neonatally Deafened Cats: Comparison of AAV2-hBDNF and AAV5-hGDNF. J Assoc Res Otolaryngol. 2019 08; 20(4):341-361. Leake PA, Rebscher SJ, Dore' C, Akil O. PMID: 31222416; PMCID: PMC6646500.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 7     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    6. Dual AAV-mediated gene therapy restores hearing in a DFNB9 mouse model. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 03 05; 116(10):4496-4501. Akil O, Dyka F, Calvet C, Emptoz A, Lahlou G, Nouaille S, Boutet de Monvel J, Hardelin JP, Hauswirth WW, Avan P, Petit C, Safieddine S, Lustig LR. PMID: 30782832; PMCID: PMC6410774.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 44     Fields:    Translation:HumansAnimalsCells
    7. Cellular Dynamics in Early Healing of Mouse Tympanic Membranes. Otol Neurotol. 2019 02; 40(2):e160-e166. Chari DA, Frumm SM, Akil O, Tward AD. PMID: 30570602.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 3     Fields:    Translation:Animals
    8. AAV-Mediated Gene Delivery to the Inner Ear. Methods Mol Biol. 2019; 1950:271-282. Akil O, Lustig L. PMID: 30783980.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 6     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    9. Deletion of Tmtc4 activates the unfolded protein response and causes postnatal hearing loss. J Clin Invest. 2018 11 01; 128(11):5150-5162. Li J, Akil O, Rouse SL, McLaughlin CW, Matthews IR, Lustig LR, Chan DK, Sherr EH. PMID: 30188326; PMCID: PMC6205388.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 9     Fields:    Translation:HumansAnimalsCells
    10. Virally Mediated Overexpression of Glial-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Elicits Age- and Dose-Dependent Neuronal Toxicity and Hearing Loss. Hum Gene Ther. 2019 01; 30(1):88-105. Akil O, Blits B, Lustig LR, Leake PA. PMID: 30183384; PMCID: PMC6343370.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 11     Fields:    Translation:HumansAnimalsCells
    11. Clarin-1 gene transfer rescues auditory synaptopathy in model of Usher syndrome. J Clin Invest. 2018 08 01; 128(8):3382-3401. Dulon D, Papal S, Patni P, Cortese M, Vincent PF, Tertrais M, Emptoz A, Tlili A, Bouleau Y, Michel V, Delmaghani S, Aghaie A, Pepermans E, Alegria-Prevot O, Akil O, Lustig L, Avan P, Safieddine S, Petit C, El-Amraoui A. PMID: 29985171; PMCID: PMC6063508.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 34     Fields:    Translation:HumansAnimalsCells
    12. Astrocyte-derived interleukin-33 promotes microglial synapse engulfment and neural circuit development. Science. 2018 03 16; 359(6381):1269-1273. Vainchtein ID, Chin G, Cho FS, Kelley KW, Miller JG, Chien EC, Liddelow SA, Nguyen PT, Nakao-Inoue H, Dorman LC, Akil O, Joshita S, Barres BA, Paz JT, Molofsky AB, Molofsky AV. PMID: 29420261; PMCID: PMC6070131.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 114     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    13. Local gene therapy durably restores vestibular function in a mouse model of Usher syndrome type 1G. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 09 05; 114(36):9695-9700. Emptoz A, Michel V, Lelli A, Akil O, Boutet de Monvel J, Lahlou G, Meyer A, Dupont T, Nouaille S, Ey E, Franca de Barros F, Beraneck M, Dulon D, Hardelin JP, Lustig L, Avan P, Petit C, Safieddine S. PMID: 28835534; PMCID: PMC5594693.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 36     Fields:    Translation:HumansAnimalsCells
    14. Current Understanding and Potential of Gene Therapy for Hearing Restoration in Humans. Genetics of Deafness. 2016 Apr 21; 20:132-141. Akil AO, Lustig LL. .
      View in: Publisher Site   Mentions:
    15. Parallel mechanisms suppress cochlear bone remodeling to protect hearing. Bone. 2016 08; 89:7-15. Jáuregui EJ, Akil O, Acevedo C, Hall-Glenn F, Tsai BS, Bale HA, Liebenberg E, Humphrey MB, Ritchie RO, Lustig LR, Alliston T. PMID: 27085457; PMCID: PMC4916019.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 13     Fields:    Translation:Animals
    16. Mouse Auditory Brainstem Response Testing. Bio Protoc. 2016 Mar 20; 6(6). Akil O, Oursler AE, Fan K, Lustig LR. PMID: 28280753; PMCID: PMC5340198.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 9  
    17. The Role of Saposins in Auditory and Vestibular Systems. Medical Research Archives. 2015 Aug 3; (4). Akil AO, Rouse RS, Lustig LL. .
      View in: Publisher Site   Mentions:
    18. Role of saposin C and D in auditory and vestibular function. Laryngoscope. 2016 Feb; 126(2):452-9. Lustig LR, Alemi S, Sun Y, Grabowski G, Akil O. PMID: 26198053.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions:    Fields:    Translation:Animals
    19. Surgical method for virally mediated gene delivery to the mouse inner ear through the round window membrane. J Vis Exp. 2015 Mar 16; (97). Akil O, Rouse SL, Chan DK, Lustig LR. PMID: 25867531; PMCID: PMC4401361.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 14     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    20. Spiral ganglion degeneration and hearing loss as a consequence of satellite cell death in saposin B-deficient mice. J Neurosci. 2015 Feb 18; 35(7):3263-75. Akil O, Sun Y, Vijayakumar S, Zhang W, Ku T, Lee CK, Jones S, Grabowski GA, Lustig LR. PMID: 25698761; PMCID: PMC6605599.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 8     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    21. Unilateral Cochlear Delivery of Virally Mediated Gene Therapy Demonstrates Bilateral Expression in VGLUT3 Knockout Mice. Otolaryngology. 2014 Sep 1; 151(1_suppl):p231-p232. Kiringoda KR, Akil AO, Lustig LL. .
      View in: Publisher Site   Mentions:
    22. Disrupted bone remodeling leads to cochlear overgrowth and hearing loss in a mouse model of fibrous dysplasia. PLoS One. 2014; 9(5):e94989. Akil O, Hall-Glenn F, Chang J, Li A, Chang W, Lustig LR, Alliston T, Hsiao EC. PMID: 24788917; PMCID: PMC4006800.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 6     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    23. In Vivo Gene Transfer into Neonatal Mice Cochlea Using Adeno- Associated Viral Vectors. Otolaryngology. 2013 Sep 1; 149(2_suppl):p102-p102. Meyer MA, Danos DO, Akil AO, Petit PC, Safieddine SS. .
      View in: Publisher Site   Mentions:
    24. Mouse Cochlear Whole Mount Immunofluorescence. Bio Protoc. 2013 Mar 05; 3(5). Akil O, Lustig LR. PMID: 27547786; PMCID: PMC4988679.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions:
    25. Transfert de gène in vivo dans la cochlée de souris néonatales via des vecteurs viraux adéno-associés. Annales Francaises d'Oto-Rhino-Laryngologie et de Pathologie Cervico-Faciale. 2012 Oct 1; 129(4):a19. Meyer MA, Danos DO, Tordo TJ, Akil AO, Petit PC, Safieddine SS. .
      View in: Publisher Site   Mentions:
    26. Restoration of hearing in the VGLUT3 knockout mouse using virally mediated gene therapy. Neuron. 2012 Jul 26; 75(2):283-93. Akil O, Seal RP, Burke K, Wang C, Alemi A, During M, Edwards RH, Lustig LR. PMID: 22841313; PMCID: PMC3408581.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 139     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    27. Comparison of functional and morphologic characteristics of mice models of noise-induced hearing loss. Auris Nasus Larynx. 2013 Feb; 40(1):11-7. Park SN, Back SA, Park KH, Seo JH, Noh HI, Akil O, Lustig LR, Yeo SW. PMID: 22364846.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 11     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    28. Severe vestibular dysfunction and altered vestibular innervation in mice lacking prosaposin. Neurosci Res. 2012 Apr; 72(4):296-305. Akil O, Lustig LR. PMID: 22326583; PMCID: PMC3312039.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 3     Fields:    Translation:Animals
    29. Cochlear gene therapy. Curr Opin Neurol. 2012 Feb; 25(1):57-60. Lustig LR, Akil O. PMID: 22157110; PMCID: PMC3755754.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 13     Fields:    Translation:HumansAnimalsCells
    30. α-Synuclein deficiency and efferent nerve degeneration in the mouse cochlea: a possible cause of early-onset presbycusis. Neurosci Res. 2011 Nov; 71(3):303-10. Park SN, Back SA, Choung YH, Kim HL, Akil O, Lustig LR, Park KH, Yeo SW. PMID: 21840348.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 9     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    31. Examination of Bone Ossification Markers in Cochlear Development. The Laryngoscope. 2011 Jan 1; 121(S5):s313-s313. Chang CJ, Butcher BK, Akil AO, Schneider SR, Lustig LL, Alliston AT. .
      View in: Publisher Site   Mentions:
    32. Tissue-specific calibration of extracellular matrix material properties by transforming growth factor-β and Runx2 in bone is required for hearing. EMBO Rep. 2010 Oct; 11(10):765-71. Chang JL, Brauer DS, Johnson J, Chen CG, Akil O, Balooch G, Humphrey MB, Chin EN, Porter AE, Butcher K, Ritchie RO, Schneider RA, Lalwani A, Derynck R, Marshall GW, Marshall SJ, Lustig L, Alliston T. PMID: 20847738; PMCID: PMC2948188.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 19     Fields:    Translation:HumansAnimalsCells
    33. Role of the copper transporter, CTR1, in platinum-induced ototoxicity. J Neurosci. 2010 Jul 14; 30(28):9500-9. More SS, Akil O, Ianculescu AG, Geier EG, Lustig LR, Giacomini KM. PMID: 20631178; PMCID: PMC2949060.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 55     Fields:    Translation:HumansAnimalsCells
    34. Localization of synucleins in the mammalian cochlea. J Assoc Res Otolaryngol. 2008 Dec; 9(4):452-63. Akil O, Weber CM, Park SN, Ninkina N, Buchman V, Lustig LR. PMID: 18665422; PMCID: PMC2580813.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 6     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    35. Muscle-like nicotinic receptor accessory molecules in sensory hair cells of the inner ear. Mol Cell Neurosci. 2008 Jun; 38(2):153-69. Osman AA, Schrader AD, Hawkes AJ, Akil O, Bergeron A, Lustig LR, Simmons DD. PMID: 18420419; PMCID: PMC2480618.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 9     Fields:    Translation:HumansAnimalsCells
    36. Sensorineural deafness and seizures in mice lacking vesicular glutamate transporter 3. Neuron. 2008 Jan 24; 57(2):263-75. Seal RP, Akil O, Yi E, Weber CM, Grant L, Yoo J, Clause A, Kandler K, Noebels JL, Glowatzki E, Lustig LR, Edwards RH. PMID: 18215623; PMCID: PMC2293283.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 148     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
    37. Progressive deafness and altered cochlear innervation in knock-out mice lacking prosaposin. J Neurosci. 2006 Dec 13; 26(50):13076-88. Akil O, Chang J, Hiel H, Kong JH, Yi E, Glowatzki E, Lustig LR. PMID: 17167097; PMCID: PMC6674959.
      View in: PubMed   Mentions: 11     Fields:    Translation:AnimalsCells
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