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Omar Akil, PhD

Title(s)Associate Professor, Otolaryngology
SchoolSchool of Medicine
Phone415-502-4880
ORCID ORCID Icon0000-0001-6148-1985 Additional info
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    Omar Akil, PhD, is an Assistant 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.
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    1. 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. Clarin-1 expression in adult mouse and human retina highlights a role of Müller glia in Usher syndrome. J Pathol. 2019 Oct 18. PMID: 31625146.
      View in: PubMed
    2. Lustig L, Akil O. Cochlear Gene Therapy. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2019 Sep 03; 9(9). PMID: 30323014.
      View in: PubMed
    3. Leake PA, Rebscher SJ, Dore' C, Akil O. 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 Aug; 20(4):341-361. PMID: 31222416.
      View in: PubMed
    4. 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. Dual AAV-mediated gene therapy restores hearing in a DFNB9 mouse model. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Feb 19. PMID: 30782832.
      View in: PubMed
    5. Chari DA, Frumm SM, Akil O, Tward AD. Cellular Dynamics in Early Healing of Mouse Tympanic Membranes. Otol Neurotol. 2019 02; 40(2):e160-e166. PMID: 30570602.
      View in: PubMed
    6. Akil O, Lustig L. AAV-Mediated Gene Delivery to the Inner Ear. Methods Mol Biol. 2019; 1950:271-282. PMID: 30783980.
      View in: PubMed
    7. Li J, Akil O, Rouse SL, McLaughlin CW, Matthews IR, Lustig LR, Chan DK, Sherr EH. Deletion of Tmtc4 activates the unfolded protein response and causes postnatal hearing loss. J Clin Invest. 2018 11 01; 128(11):5150-5162. PMID: 30188326.
      View in: PubMed
    8. Akil O, Blits B, Lustig LR, Leake PA. Virally Mediated Overexpression of Glial-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Elicits Age- and Dose-Dependent Neuronal Toxicity and Hearing Loss. Hum Gene Ther. 2019 Jan; 30(1):88-105. PMID: 30183384.
      View in: PubMed
    9. 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. Clarin-1 gene transfer rescues auditory synaptopathy in model of Usher syndrome. J Clin Invest. 2018 08 01; 128(8):3382-3401. PMID: 29985171.
      View in: PubMed
    10. 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. Astrocyte-derived interleukin-33 promotes microglial synapse engulfment and neural circuit development. Science. 2018 03 16; 359(6381):1269-1273. PMID: 29420261.
      View in: PubMed
    11. 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. 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. PMID: 28835534.
      View in: PubMed
    12. Omar Akil, Lawrence Lustig. Current Understanding and Potential of Gene Therapy for Hearing Restoration in Humans. Genetics of Deafness. 2016 Apr 21; 20:132-141.
      View in: Publisher Site
    13. Jáuregui EJ, Akil O, Acevedo C, Hall-Glenn F, Tsai BS, Bale HA, Liebenberg E, Humphrey MB, Ritchie RO, Lustig LR, Alliston T. Parallel mechanisms suppress cochlear bone remodeling to protect hearing. Bone. 2016 08; 89:7-15. PMID: 27085457.
      View in: PubMed
    14. Akil O, Oursler AE, Fan K, Lustig LR. Mouse Auditory Brainstem Response Testing. Bio Protoc. 2016 Mar 20; 6(6). PMID: 28280753.
      View in: PubMed
    15. Omar Akil, Stephanie Rouse, Lawrence Lustig. The Role of Saposins in Auditory and Vestibular Systems. Medical Research Archives. 2015 Aug 3; (4).
      View in: Publisher Site
    16. Lustig LR, Alemi S, Sun Y, Grabowski G, Akil O. Role of saposin C and D in auditory and vestibular function. Laryngoscope. 2016 Feb; 126(2):452-9. PMID: 26198053.
      View in: PubMed
    17. Akil O, Rouse SL, Chan DK, Lustig LR. Surgical method for virally mediated gene delivery to the mouse inner ear through the round window membrane. J Vis Exp. 2015 Mar 16; (97). PMID: 25867531.
      View in: PubMed
    18. Akil O, Sun Y, Vijayakumar S, Zhang W, Ku T, Lee CK, Jones S, Grabowski GA, Lustig LR. 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. PMID: 25698761.
      View in: PubMed
    19. Ruwan Kiringoda, Omar Akil, Lawrence R. Lustig. Unilateral Cochlear Delivery of Virally Mediated Gene Therapy Demonstrates Bilateral Expression in VGLUT3 Knockout Mice. Otolaryngology. 2014 Sep 1; 151(1_suppl):p231-p232.
      View in: Publisher Site
    20. Akil O, Hall-Glenn F, Chang J, Li A, Chang W, Lustig LR, Alliston T, Hsiao EC. Disrupted bone remodeling leads to cochlear overgrowth and hearing loss in a mouse model of fibrous dysplasia. PLoS One. 2014; 9(5):e94989. PMID: 24788917.
      View in: PubMed
    21. Anais Meyer, Olivier Danos, Omar Akil, Christine Petit, Saaid Safieddine. In Vivo Gene Transfer into Neonatal Mice Cochlea Using Adeno- Associated Viral Vectors. Otolaryngology. 2013 Sep 1; 149(2_suppl):p102-p102.
      View in: Publisher Site
    22. Akil O, Lustig LR. Mouse Cochlear Whole Mount Immunofluorescence. Bio Protoc. 2013 Mar 05; 3(5). PMID: 27547786.
      View in: PubMed
    23. A. Meyer, O. Danos, J. Tordo, O. Akil, C. Petit, S. Safieddine. 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.
      View in: Publisher Site
    24. Akil O, Seal RP, Burke K, Wang C, Alemi A, During M, Edwards RH, Lustig LR. Restoration of hearing in the VGLUT3 knockout mouse using virally mediated gene therapy. Neuron. 2012 Jul 26; 75(2):283-93. PMID: 22841313.
      View in: PubMed
    25. Park SN, Back SA, Park KH, Seo JH, Noh HI, Akil O, Lustig LR, Yeo SW. Comparison of functional and morphologic characteristics of mice models of noise-induced hearing loss. Auris Nasus Larynx. 2013 Feb; 40(1):11-7. PMID: 22364846.
      View in: PubMed
    26. Akil O, Lustig LR. Severe vestibular dysfunction and altered vestibular innervation in mice lacking prosaposin. Neurosci Res. 2012 Apr; 72(4):296-305. PMID: 22326583.
      View in: PubMed
    27. Lustig LR, Akil O. Cochlear gene therapy. Curr Opin Neurol. 2012 Feb; 25(1):57-60. PMID: 22157110.
      View in: PubMed
    28. Park SN, Back SA, Choung YH, Kim HL, Akil O, Lustig LR, Park KH, Yeo SW. a-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. PMID: 21840348.
      View in: PubMed
    29. Jolie Chang, Kristin Butcher, Omar Akil, Rich Schneider, Lawrence Lustig, Tamara Alliston. Examination of Bone Ossification Markers in Cochlear Development. The Laryngoscope. 2011 Jan 1; 121(S5):s313-s313.
      View in: Publisher Site
    30. 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. Tissue-specific calibration of extracellular matrix material properties by transforming growth factor-ß and Runx2 in bone is required for hearing. EMBO Rep. 2010 Oct; 11(10):765-71. PMID: 20847738.
      View in: PubMed
    31. More SS, Akil O, Ianculescu AG, Geier EG, Lustig LR, Giacomini KM. Role of the copper transporter, CTR1, in platinum-induced ototoxicity. J Neurosci. 2010 Jul 14; 30(28):9500-9. PMID: 20631178.
      View in: PubMed
    32. Akil O, Weber CM, Park SN, Ninkina N, Buchman V, Lustig LR. Localization of synucleins in the mammalian cochlea. J Assoc Res Otolaryngol. 2008 Dec; 9(4):452-63. PMID: 18665422.
      View in: PubMed
    33. Osman AA, Schrader AD, Hawkes AJ, Akil O, Bergeron A, Lustig LR, Simmons DD. Muscle-like nicotinic receptor accessory molecules in sensory hair cells of the inner ear. Mol Cell Neurosci. 2008 Jun; 38(2):153-69. PMID: 18420419.
      View in: PubMed
    34. Seal RP, Akil O, Yi E, Weber CM, Grant L, Yoo J, Clause A, Kandler K, Noebels JL, Glowatzki E, Lustig LR, Edwards RH. Sensorineural deafness and seizures in mice lacking vesicular glutamate transporter 3. Neuron. 2008 Jan 24; 57(2):263-75. PMID: 18215623.
      View in: PubMed
    35. Akil O, Chang J, Hiel H, Kong JH, Yi E, Glowatzki E, Lustig LR. Progressive deafness and altered cochlear innervation in knock-out mice lacking prosaposin. J Neurosci. 2006 Dec 13; 26(50):13076-88. PMID: 17167097.
      View in: PubMed