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Working Towards a Better Understanding of Inherited Hearing Loss

Published: 12/30/2013

Last Updated: 01/20/2014

Several Montréal scientists recently discovered a group of proteins that help shape the organ responsible for sound detection. As they stated in their results, published in the scientific journal Developmental Cell, these findings could lead to a better understanding of inherited forms of hearing loss.

Hearing occurs when sound-induced vibrations are transformed into electrical impulses by the inner ear and are then relayed to the brain. The hair cells in the inner ear that are responsible for this process contain what is known as stereocilia, which act as specialized sensors to detect vibrations.

According to Dr. Michel Cayouette, director of the cellular neurobiology research unit at a leading biomedical institute in Montréal, these stereocilia are critical during embryotic development, but remain poorly understood.

The study found that a group of proteins known to control cell division are crucial in the orientation of the stereocilia. Mutations in these proteins could be a cause of inherited forms of hearing loss. Continued study of these proteins could lead to a better understanding of this issue.

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