Deep inside our ears there are thousands of hairs waving around to collect and amplify sound. These hairs sprout from hair cells and are very fragile. Toxic chemicals can damage their foundations leading to hearing loss. Here we see beds of hair cells from the ears of mice, stained red, with their nuclei stained blue. The hair cells in the picture on the left have been damaged by gentamicin, a powerful antibiotic that unfortunately also causes these cells oxidative stress [the potentially damaging situation caused by a cell’s inability to remove toxins] highlighted here by a green stain. A similar chemical called apramycin was fed to identical cells on the right, which show much less stress. Finding out what makes apramycin less toxic to ear hair cells might guide the design of new antibiotics to tackle infections with minimal side effects.
Written by John Ankers
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