Zebrafish can regain lost hearing

Hearing rarely returns once a human loses the ability to hear.

However, when lower vertebrates such as birds, reptiles, fish and amphibians lose the ability to hear, they are able to regenerate hearing cells, called hair cells, and regain their hearing.

The cells are called hair cells because they are tiny, hair-like projections found in the inner ear which enable humans and animals to hear. Scientists don’t know why certain animals can regenerate hearing cells while higher vertebrates such as humans cannot. For more than a year, U neurobiologist Tatjana Piotrowski has been researching why certain creatures have lost the ability to regenerate these cells.

“The main focus is to understand what genes you need for hair cell regeneration,” Piotrowski said. “Once we understand that, we can go back and see why mammals lost the ability to regenerate hair cells.”

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