In humans, the hair cells that enable hearing cannot regrow if they are damaged by loud noises or illness, which can lead to deafness. Sound vibrations enter the ear, moving the hair cells that line the cochlear, which in turn convey this information to the brain. If these hair cells are damaged, the information can no longer be transmitted to the brain, so scientists have long been searching for a way to regrow them.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine believe they have uncovered the trigger for hair cell growth, which could one day pave the way for re-growing damaged cells. The team investigated two proteins, called Activin A and follistatin, which are linked to hair cell growth.
By examining the effect of each protein separately in mice, the researchers were able to determine that when Activin A levels were increased the hair cells were formed too early and in the wrong places. When follistatin levels were increased, the hair cells were disorganized and were formed late. Their experiments show that the two proteins perform a finely tuned balancing act to coordinate the development of hair cells, and any imbalance causes problems.
This discovery has the potential to open the door to treatment options for those with deafness caused by damage to the delicate hair cells.
Source: Science Daily
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