Hearing Loss Found
Every sound we hear is the result of sound waves in the air wobbling tiny hairs found on specialised cells inside the ear. There are two layers of hair cells – inner (stained green) and outer (red) – which turn that physical information into electrical impulses that go to the brain where they are interpreted as sounds. Unfortunately, these delicate hair cells can become damaged over time, leading to age-related hearing loss – a condition that is expected to affect more than 900 million people worldwide by 2050. By focusing on the complex biological processes that control the development and maturation of hair cells, researchers have discovered that a molecule called helios is responsible for converting immature outer hair cells into functional, grown-up ones. Understanding these pathways and learning how to manipulate them could lead to new ways to regenerate hair cells in the ear, potentially providing a way to reverse age-related hearing loss.
Written by Kat Arney
- Image by Dr Lauren Chessum, MRC Harwell
- Mammalian Genetics Unit, MRC Harwell Institute, Harwell, Oxfordshire, UK
- Image copyright held by the original authors
- Research published in Nature, November 2018