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Harnessing regenerative power of early supporting cells could lead to new strategies to combat many causes of deafness

There’s a cast of characters deep inside your ears — many kinds of tiny cells working together to allow you to hear. The lead actors, called , play the crucial role in carrying sound signals to the brain.

[Microscopic View of Murine Ear Cells]
This microscopic view of cells deep within the ear of a newborn mouse show in red and blue the supporting cells that surround the hair cells (green) that send sound signals to the brain. New research shows that the supporting cells can regenerate if damaged in the first days of life, allowing hearing to develop normally. This gives new clues for potential ways to restore hearing.
Credit: , University of Michigan


The research was a partnership between Corfas’ team at U-M and that of , Ph.D., of St. Jude, and the two share senior authorship. , Ph.D. of St. Jude and Guoqiang Wan, Ph.D., of U-M are co-first authors. Additional authors are LingLi Zhang of St. Jude, Corfas’ former colleagues at Harvard University Angelica R. Gigliello and ; and and Dwight Bergles, both of Johns Hopkins University.

The research was funded by a Sir Henry Wellcome Fellowship, a Hearing Health Foundation Emerging Research Grant, the Boston Children’s Hospital Otolaryngology Foundation, National Institutes of Health grants DC004820, HD18655, DC006471, and CA21765; Office of Naval Research Grants N000140911014, N000141210191, and N000141210775, and by the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Spontaneous regeneration of cochlear supporting cells after neonatal ablation ensures hearing in the adult mouse PNAS 2014 ; published ahead of print, doi:10.1073/pnas.1408064111

University of Michigan Health System