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Cambridge University Science Magazine
However Dr Albert Edge and colleagues have now shown that upon destruction of hair cells and application of a drug inhibiting the 'Notch' signalling pathway, these supporting cells can take the limelight themselves, moving from their backstage role to become fully functional hair cells. What is truly amazing is that the researchers have managed not just to show an improvement at the cellular level, but also measured improved hearing ability in real mice.

However, despite these encouraging results and significant recovery lasting throughout the duration of the study, these effects lasted only three months, and as such there is still uncertainty about the long term benefits of such therapy. One potential concern is that the transformation of supporting cells into hair cells may have a long term lasting impact on the ability of the ear to function. After all, hearing is a complex process, and by no means a one man show.

doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2012.10.032

Written by Toby McMaster.