Researchers Identify Role of a Critical Protein in Hearing Hair Cells Development

Saturday, September 12, 2020 - 13:28
Hearing Hair Cells

University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) researchers have conducted a study that has determined the role that a critical protein plays in the development of hair cells.

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These hair cells are vital for hearing. Some of these cells amplify sounds that come into the ear, and others transform sound waves into electrical signals that travel to the brain, Medical Xpress reports.

Ronna Hertzano, MD, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Otorhinolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery at UMSOM and Maggie Matern, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University, demonstrated that the protein, called GFI1, may be critical for determining whether an embryonic hair cell matures into a functional adult hair cell or becomes a different cell that functions more like a nerve cell or neuron.

The study was published in the journal Development shows that hearing relies on the proper functioning of specialized cells within the inner ear called hair cells. When the hair cells do not develop properly or are damaged by environmental stresses like loud noise, it results in a loss of hearing function.

"Our findings explain why GFI1 is critical to enable embryonic cells to progress into functioning adult hair cells," said Dr. Hertzano. "These data also explain the importance of GFI1 in experimental protocols to regenerate hair cells from stem cells. These regenerative methods have the potential of being used for patients who have experienced hearing loss due to age or environmental factors like exposure to loud noise."

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