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Volume 15, Number 5-6

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Development and evolution of the vestibular sensory apparatus of the mammalian ear
Full Text Featured Article (247 KB)
pp. 225 - 241
Kirk W. Beisel, Yesha Wang-Lundberg, Adel Maklad, Bernd Fritzsch

Herein, we will review molecular aspects of vestibular ear development and present them in the context of evolutionary changes and hair cell regeneration. Several genes guide the development of anterior and posterior canals. Although some of these genes are also important for horizontal canal development, this canal strongly depends on a single gene, Otx1. Otx1 also governs the segregation of saccule and utricle. Several genes are essential for otoconia and cupula formation, but protein interactions necessary to form and maintain otoconia or a cupula are not yet understood. Nerve fiber guidance to specific vestibular end-organs is predominantly mediated by diffusible neurotrophic factors that work even in the absence of differentiated hair cells. Neurotrophins, in particular Bdnf, are the most crucial attractive factor released by hair cells. If Bdnf is misexpressed, fibers can be redirected away from hair cells. Hair cell differentiation is mediated by Atoh1. However, Atoh1 may not initiate hair cell precursor formation. Resolving the role of Atoh1 in postmitotic hair cell precursors is crucial for future attempts in hair cell regeneration. Additional analyses are needed before gene therapy can help regenerate hair cells, restore otoconia, and reconnect sensory epithelia to the brain.

©2005 Journal of Vestibular Research All Rights Reserved.