Scientists Regenerate Sound-Sensing Cells in Mice For years, scientists have thought that sound-sensing hair cells in the inner ear are not replaced once they’re lost. But supporting cells in the ear can turn into hair cells in newborn mice, according to results of a study published Feb. 20 in the journal Stem Cell Reports. If the ... Research in Brief
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Research in Brief  |   June 01, 2014
Scientists Regenerate Sound-Sensing Cells in Mice
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Hearing & Speech Perception / Hearing Disorders / Research in Brief
Research in Brief   |   June 01, 2014
Scientists Regenerate Sound-Sensing Cells in Mice
The ASHA Leader, June 2014, Vol. 19, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB6.19062014.np
The ASHA Leader, June 2014, Vol. 19, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB6.19062014.np
For years, scientists have thought that sound-sensing hair cells in the inner ear are not replaced once they’re lost. But supporting cells in the ear can turn into hair cells in newborn mice, according to results of a study published Feb. 20 in the journal Stem Cell Reports. If the findings can be applied to older animals, they may lead to ways to help stimulate cell replacement in adults and to treatment strategies for people suffering from deafness due to hair-cell loss—a major cause of hearing loss in mammals.
Contrary to previous research, this latest study found that hair cell replacement does occur, but at very low levels. “The finding that newborn hair cells regenerate spontaneously is novel,” says senior author Albert Edge of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.
The team’s previous research revealed that inhibition of the notch signaling pathway increases hair cell differentiation and can help restore hearing to mice with noise-induced deafness. In their latest work, the investigators found that blocking the notch pathway increases formation of new hair cells—not from remaining hair cells but from certain nearby supporting cells that express a protein called Lgr5. “By using an inhibitor of notch signaling, we could push even more cells to differentiate into hair cells,” Edge says.
Combining this new knowledge about Lgr5-expressing cells with the previous finding that notch inhibition can regenerate hair cells may allow scientists to design new hair cell regeneration strategies to treat hearing loss and deafness.
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June 2014
Volume 19, Issue 6