Inside our ears lies a very sophisticated system, responsible not only for our hearing but also for detecting motion and keeping our balance. To do this, the cells of the inner ear use sensory hairs, or stereocilia, which bend in response to vibrations, triggering a cascade of events to send a signal to the brain. Researchers have recently managed to generate these sensory cells from mouse embryonic stem cells, by treating them with a series of molecules known to be necessary for their development. The finished cells, pictured in red, with their nuclei in blue and bundles of stereocilia in green, have all the characteristics of cells found in the vestibular apparatus, the region of the inner ear involved in perceiving movement. Growing these cells in the laboratory will help further our understanding of inner ear development, as well as test potential treatments of diseases affecting hearing and balance.
Written by Emmanuelle Briolat
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