Tiny hairs inside our ears dance to vibrations carried by music or conversation, helping to send auditory signals to the brain. These cells, known as stereocilia, can be lost through age, injury or disease – and once they’re gone, they’re gone for good. Or are they? This is an organoid, a living model of ear tissue grown in a lab using stem cells from a mouse’s ear. A cocktail of chemicals encourages new ear hair cells (red) to grow out from a blob of changing stem cells (blue). A protein vital to this process, called Lgr5, is found in the cochlear of human ears too. While organoids are great for testing hair-raising drugs in the lab, work is underway to go a step further. Using similar chemicals, researchers hope to nurture Lgr5-containing stem cells inside deaf ears, and regrow the precious hearing hairs.
Written by John Ankers
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