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Zebrafish offering insights into hearing loss

Zebrafish and hearing loss may appear to be worlds apart. Yet, on its side stripes the zebrafish has hair cells functionally similar to those in the human inner ear, and studying the zebrafish is now adding to our knowledge about our vulnerability to hearing damage.

People react differently to medications, such as antibiotics and chemotherapy. In some patients, these medications damage the inner ear hair cells, causing hearing loss.

Scientists at the University of Washington have been experimenting with zebrafish to determine which genes and chemical components cause reactions in the hair cells

Screening of stripes

The experiments are focusing on the stripes that give the fish their name and which the fish use to sense its surroundings. The sensing cells on the stripes have much in common with our inner ear cells, but unlike human inner ear hair cells, the cells on the zebrafish stripes are easily accessible and easier to study.

?This means that scientists can very efficiently analyze the sensory structures under different conditions to find out what is likely to cause damage to these structures and, conversely, what can protect them from damage,? explained James F. Battey, director of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

Source: EurekaAltert.
Published on hear-it on November 14, 2008.

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