News of the WeekDevelopmental Biology

Understanding of Ears, Bristles Jumps a Notch

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Science  13 Nov 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5392, pp. 1235
DOI: 10.1126/science.282.5392.1235a

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In the December issue of Development, researchers demonstrate that proteins called Delta and Notch, already known to help pattern the vibration-sensing bristles on a fly, help control the development of the hair cells in the inner ear of zebrafish and chicks; other evidence from mice suggests that the same proteins are at work in mammalian ears as well. This work may eventually have clinical applications: In mammals, including humans, damaged hair cells are lost for good, but birds can regenerate them. Understanding how the cells develop in the first place provides insight into the pathways that prevent regeneration.