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Ear Cells

November 6, 2007

Scientists have grown inner ear “hair” cells in the laboratory.


Growing out hair cells. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Spindly cells in the inner ear, called "hair" cells, are critical for both hearing and balance. Now, in a boon for research, neuroscientists Jeffrey Corwin and Zhenqing Hu at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have finally grown and multiplied these cells in the lab.

JEFFREY CORWIN (Univ. of Virginia School of Medicine):
Up until this point in time, every researcher who worked on hair cells had to obtain those cells by very laborious and difficult micro-dissection of cells from the internal ear.

In the future, they can just thaw out a test tube and grow whatever they need. Corwin and Hu’s cell lines actually come from embryonic chickens; that’s of interest because unlike people, birds can regenerate lost hair cells. Understanding how they do that could lead to new treatments for human balance and hearing loss. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.