Why do some people lose their hearing as they age, while others can still hear a pin drop? One cause of ageing-related hearing loss is problems with the delicate hair cells inside a shell-like structure inside the ear known as the cochlea, which responds to sound. To understand what happens during hearing loss, scientists have been studying the cochlear hair cells in mice with a fault in a gene called Neuropilin-1 (right), which also lose their hearing as they age, and comparing them with cells from unaffected animals (left). The DNA inside the hair cells is stained blue while nerve connections are highlighted as red dots. Although the difference is quite subtle, there are fewer red spots dotted around the outer layer of hair cells from mice lacking Neuropilin-1, suggesting that the gene is involved in wiring these cells into the nervous system and transmitting sound information to the brain.
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