Molecular mechanisms underlying zebrafish hearing hair cell regeneration revealed
After a lifetime of exposure to noise, or perhaps sudden trauma – losing our auditory hair cells leads to hearing loss that is, for the moment, permanent. But not so for zebrafish (Danio rerio). Free to attend as many loud gigs as they want, their auditory hair cells (highlighted in green here) replenish after injury. We share 70% of our genes with zebrafish, so scientists delve into the fish’s genetics to look for useful clues. Sound waggles auditory hair cells – a mechanical response that helps to send electrical impulses towards the brain, or breaks them. When the fish’s hair cells break, surrounding ‘support’ cells reprogram into new ones. To do this, researchers find they change which genes are switched off and on – using transcription factor proteins called Sox and Six. Humans have their own versions, so the next question is how to guide their behaviour to encourage cell regeneration.
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