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Blocked Ear
24 September 2015

Blocked Ear

New life often develops from cells 'talking' to each other. Inside the womb, a winding spiral of sensitive cells called the cochlea forms inside the developing ear. Its growth is guided by chemical messages known as FGFs, sent back and forth between the building blocks of the cochlea and the supportive tissue underneath. In this cochlea, from a mouse’s ear, important FGF signals have been blocked leaving the spiral shortened – the smooth tissue seen at the top becomes cracked and lumpy as it bends. Hair cells along the cochlea (artificially coloured green) vibrate to turn sounds into electrical messages bound for the brain; a shorter spiral affects the range of pitches that ears can hear. Researchers are hoping to manipulate FGF signalling in laboratory-grown human cells. Producing new cochlea cells – which the adult body is unable to do – may help to correct hearing problems that are currently thought irreparable.

Written by John Ankers

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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