The organ of Corti is a swirling funnel of tissue inside the ear. A spiral of auditory hair cells, highlighted in red in these mice organs of Corti (with other cells stained blue) helps to soaks up sound. The delicate hairs sway about in noise, turning audio signals into mechanical ones, then into electrical impulses bound for the brain. This dazzling setup is prone to damage – loud noises, disease and developmental problems can destroy hair cells, and they cannot regenerate. The organ on the right shows the effects of removing a single gene, Six1 from the genetic makeup of the developing ear. Instead of having strong bands of hair cells (like the healthy tissue on the left), the organ without Six1 has a broken spiral with fewer hairs. Learning more about how Six1 helps hair cells emerge from stem cells during development could influence future treatments to restore hearing later in life.
Written by John Ankers
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