Insight into the genetic control of the inner ear's sensory cells that gradually die with ageing causing hearing loss
Good hearing depends on, among other things, the proper functioning of specialised sensory cells in the inner ear, or cochlea, called hair cells. The hair cells of a mouse ear are pictured – the white tufts being the hair-like projections that give the cells their name. These cells are unable to regenerate so their damage and death over the course of a lifetime results in gradual hearing loss. Indeed, by the time we’re in our 70s, approximately half of us will have difficulty hearing. Figuring out how to preserve or regenerate these hair cells is therefore a major goal toward developing treatments that could prevent or even reverse hearing loss. Thanks to cutting edge genetic approaches, researchers are discovering the proteins that are necessary for new hair cell development and growth – information that could be leveraged into making that goal a reality.
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