Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Good for Balance

The importance of retinoic acid degradation for developing our inner ear balance apparatus revealed

31 July 2020

Good for Balance

Have one too many alcoholic drinks and you'll soon feel dizzy. This is because alcohol affects our vestibular apparatus, a system within our ears that controls balance. Researchers uncover how one part of this system, the vestibular epithelium – composed of two zones: the striola and extrastriola – develops. Levels of retinoic acid, an important chemical for controlling tissue development, are controlled by enzymes which degrade it. Using scanning electron microscopy (pictured), researchers show that in mice lacking one such enzyme in their vestibular tissue, the striola (middle) looks markedly different from that of normal mice (left) and more similar to the extrastriola (right) of normal mice. What’s more, these mutant mice had head tremors and difficulty performing balance beam tests. This highlights just how important retinoic acid degradation is for developing the structures we need to balance.

Written by Lux Fatimathas

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