Lose your phone and get another. Lose your voice and in time it’ll return. Lose your hearing and you’re stuck. Damage to hair cells in your ear causes permanent hearing loss. This is partly because hair cells can’t divide and regrow. However cells in a part of the ear called the Organ of Corti (OC) can divide when grown in a dish. As they divide they form spheres containing progenitors – cells with the potential to develop into hair cells. Researchers examined this further in mice. Mouse OC cells lacking a protein called Bmi1 (bottom) behaved differently to normal OC cells (top). They formed fewer spheres and those spheres contained fewer dividing cells (red), detected using three different markers (left to right). OC cells therefore need Bmi1 to divide and produce progenitors. This knowledge contributes towards the ultimate goal of someday repairing damage after hearing loss by encouraging cell division.
Written by Lux Fatimathas
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