News of the WeekNeuroscience

New Ion Channel May Yield Clues to Hearing

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Science  24 Mar 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5461, pp. 2132-2133
DOI: 10.1126/science.287.5461.2132b

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On page 2229, a team reports cloning an intriguing ion channel from the neurons that underlie the sensory bristles of the fruit fly; they have also shown that these neurons operate much like the hair cells within the human ear as they convert movement into electrical impulses. That has some researchers thinking that the functioning of the two types of cells may depend on structurally similar ion channels. If so, the new gene could provide a useful probe for fishing out the channel in human hair cells--an accomplishment that could lead to new insights into the causes of hereditary deafness and perhaps ways to correct it.