The molecular components of mechanotransduction, the genetic causes of many inherited hearing impairments, and the molecular biology of inner ear development remain largely unknown. Inner-ear gene expression data will help illuminate each of these areas. For over a decade, our laboratories have generated extensive sets of gene expression data for different cell types in the inner ear using various sample preparation methods and high-throughput genome-wide approaches. To facilitate the study of genes in the inner ear by efficient mining of the accumulated data and to foster collaboration among investigators, we have developed the Shared Harvard Inner-Ear Laboratory Database (SHIELD), an integrated resource that seeks to compile, organize and analyze the genomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic knowledge of the inner ear.

Five datasets are currently available. These datasets are combined in a relational database that integrates experimental data and annotations relevant to the inner ear. SHIELD has a searchable web interface with two data retrieval options: viewing the gene pages online or downloading each individual dataset as data tables. Each retrieved gene page shows the gene expression data and detailed gene information with hyper-links to other databases online with up-to-date annotations. Downloadable data tables are freezes of each dataset at the time of publication for more convenient for offline data analysis.

The SHIELD site was designed by Drs. David P. Corey and Jun Shen of Harvard Medical School, and is implemented and maintained by Jun Shen, Ph.D. on behalf of Harvard Medical School Center for Hereditary Deafness. The data are compiled from the contributing laboratories and public databases. Graphic design was by Millstone Graphics. The site was officially launched in March 2012, and has been constantly updated with new features and datasets ever since. SHIELD is currently funded by research grants to DPC and JS from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

The SHIELD data are made freely available to the public with the hope and expectation that they will accelerate discovery in the molecular biology of balance, hearing and deafness. Please help us to achieve this goal by sending us your feedback. Thank you!