Finding someday may help treat hearing loss, neurodegenerative disorders
Selectively turning off a protein that controls the growth and division of cells could allow regeneration of the inner ears hair cells, which convert sound vibrations into nerve impulses. The discovery by a research team based at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) runs counter to current beliefs about these cells and could eventually lead to ways of preventing or treating hearing loss. The report will appear in the journal Science and is receiving early online release on the Science Express website at http://www.sciencexpress.org.
"These findings give us a potential stragegy for hair cell regeneration, which could have enormous implications for the treatment of hearing and balance disorders," says Zheng-Yi Chen, DPhil, of the MGH Neurology Service, the studys senior author. "It also shows that cells that have been considered incapable of regeneration – like most nerve cells – can reproduce under the right conditions, which may have applications to neurodegenerative diseases."
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