Hair cells essential for hearing generated in a mouse model by activating two genes in cochlear support cells
Shaped like a snail's shell, your cochleas contains delicate outer hair cells (OHCs) that are essential for hearing. When damaged or lost, your body can't replace them so researchers have tried to generate new OHCs from support cells in the cochlea. The major roadblock — getting support cells to produce a key OHC protein called prestin. Researchers now reveal how support cells can form prestin-producing OHC-like cells in a mouse model. The team genetically engineered mice to activate two key genes in their support cells, Atoh1 and Ikzf2, which are known to be involved in OHC development. This resulted in a cascade of genetic changes that caused these support cells to become prestin-producing OHC-like cells as revealed by fluorescence microscopy. Scanning electron microscopy (pictured) further revealed that the prestin-producing OHC-like cells (pink) mimicked the V-shaped formation of existing OHCs. This brings us closer to creating OHCs that could someday restore hearing.
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