Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have gained new insights into the causes of human deafness and balance disorders by studying the inner ear of chickens.
The research provides new clues as to why birds can replace critical cells in the inner ear and humans cannot. Loss of these so-called sensory hair cells in humans is a leading cause of deafness and impaired balance due to aging, infectious disease and exposure to loud noise. The study will be published in the June 1 issue of the journal Human Molecular Genetics and appears online today.
The team measured the activity of more than 1,800 genes in sensory cells from two regions of the chicken inner ear: the cochlea, where sound is converted into nerve impulses, and the utricle, where balance is sensed. The utricle of birds replaces sensory cells regularly, while the cochlea replaces them when they die. The investigators discovered more than 100 significant differences between the two regions.
Darrell E. Ward | EurekAlert!
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