Background: Damage or destruction of sensory hair cells in the inner ear leads to hearing or balance deficits that can be debilitating, especially in older adults. Unfortunately, the damage is permanent, as regeneration of the inner ear sensory epithelia does not occur in mammals.
Results: Zebrafish and other non-mammalian vertebrates have the remarkable ability to regenerate sensory hair cells and understanding the molecular and cellular basis for this regenerative ability will hopefully aid us in designing therapies to induce regeneration in mammals. Zebrafish not only possess hair cells in the ear but also in the sensory lateral line system. Hair cells in both organs are functionally analogous to hair cells in the inner ear of mammals. The lateral line is a mechanosensory system found in most aquatic vertebrates that detects water motion and aids in predator avoidance, prey capture, schooling, and mating. Although hair cell regeneration occurs in both the ear and lateral line, most research to date has focused on the lateral line due to its relatively simple structure and accessibility.
Conclusions: Here we review the recent discoveries made during the characterization of hair cell regeneration in zebrafish.
Keywords: Notch; Wnt/β-catenin; ear; neuromast; transcriptomics.
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