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Med Hypotheses. 2006;67(3):550-5. Epub 2006 Apr 24.

Central role of supporting cells in cochlear homeostasis and pathology.

Author information

  • 1Ear Research Group, Hospital Universitario Puerta de Hierro, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, San Martín de Porres 4, 28035 Madrid, Spain.



Supporting cells have a crucial role in degenerative and regenerative events of primary sensorial hair cells of the organ of Corti. This new role should determine future studies about pathophysiology of hearing loss and its regenerative treatment.


Recent findings suggest an active role of supporting cells in the maintenance of hair cell function and structure. Evidences of high energy consumption and close proximity to auditory nervous fibers suggesting K+ active exchange, preferential expression of specific proteins and antigens, presence of glucocorticoids receptors, affinity for cisplatin and regenerative potential give the supporting cells an important role in homeostasis of the organ of Corti and in some specific diseases affecting this structure.


As well as glial cells provide protection and regeneration to neural tissues, supporting cells may provide the necessary metabolic and electrolitic conditions for hair cells mechanical and bioelectrical function. This opens new possibilities for the treatment of apparently "irreversible" destruction of the inner ear.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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