Monday, November 2, 2015

Inner ear gene discoveries offer clues about hearing and balance

Normal and defective inner ear
Normal development on the left, absence of Sox11 and Sox4 leading to malformation of the inner ear structures on the right.
A new study from the Rockefeller University in New York may show researchers ways to regrow hair cells and restore lost hearing and balance. The study was lead by senior author and professor, A. James Hudspeth, and the lab work was done by Dr. Ksenia Gnedeva. They examined mice before and after birth, and discovered that two genes control the process of generating hair cells. By switching the genes on, new hair cells were observed in mature utricles. The utricle, a small sac or bag-like organ lined with hair cells that detects motion, is highly controlled by the transcription Sox4 and Sox11. Even in older mice, when the genes are turned on, Gnedeva found new hair cells developing. However, if both genes are turned off in developing mice, it leads to the entire inner ear developing abnormally.
This study was done in hopes to find a way to "restore hair cells later in life".
A study in a similar field was done recently, and it is the development of a genetic blueprint of inner ear cell development. This was found with a new technology called single-cell RNA-seq. This sequencing provides a' foundation for the potential development of cell-based therapies for treating hearing loss and balance disorders. The adaptation from the original media release can be found here.
I find this so interesting that such a small factor can have such an expansive outcome.

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