Scientists at Washington University have uncovered a crucial gene in mice that leads to the proper development of sensory cells in the ear. When the FGF20 gene is inactivate, mice are found to be lacking vital outer sensory hair cells. Without these cell signals, the ear is unable to intensify sounds so its signal can be transmitted to the brain. Some congenital forms of deafness in humans have been linked to this genetic mutation. Interestingly, although the function of the FGF20 gene is conserved across many different animal species, mammals are the only animals unable to regenerate sensory hair cells in the ear. Current research is ongoing in an effort to see why mammals, in contrast to other vertebrates, are unable to restore these sensory cells. Potentially uncovering the genetic basis for sensory hair cell regeneration offers reason for optimism to those who wish to regain hearing.
Published: 12:05 am, 16 January 2012