Deafness or hearing deficits are debilitating conditions. They are often caused by loss of sensory hair cells or defects in their function. In contrast to mammals, nonmammalian vertebrates robustly regenerate hair cells after injury. Studying the molecular and cellular basis of nonmammalian vertebrate hair cell regeneration provides valuable insights into developing cures for human deafness. In this review, we discuss the current literature on hair cell regeneration in the context of other models for sensory cell regeneration, such as the retina and the olfactory epithelium. This comparison reveals commonalities with, as well as differences between, the different regenerating systems, which begin to define a cellular and molecular blueprint of regeneration. In addition, we propose how new technical advances can address outstanding questions in the field.
Keywords: inner ear; lateral line; olfactory epithelium; regeneration; retina; sensory hair cells; zebrafish.