More than 800,000 people in the UK – including 45,000 children – are deaf. To understand more about what's going on when people lose their hearing or are born deaf, researchers are studying mice with a genetic fault called headbobber. Animals with the faulty gene have distinctive ear problems, including deafness, poor balance and, as the name suggests, characteristic head-bobbing. Looking more closely, the delicate hairs inside the ear - known as stereocilia – don't form properly in headbobber mice (bottom row of images), compared to normal animals (top row). The exact gene responsible still needs to be identified, but it's likely to be important for the growth and organisation of the inner ear – the part responsible for hearing and balance. Headbobber mirrors a genetic fault in humans with similar hearing and balance problems, so the researchers hope their bobbing mice will shed light on the condition in humans.
Written by Kat Arney
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