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Zebrafish. 2010 Mar;7(1):3-11. doi: 10.1089/zeb.2009.0639.

Chemical screening for hair cell loss and protection in the zebrafish lateral line.

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  • 1Virginia Merrill Bloedel Hearing Research Center, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195-7923, USA.


In humans, most hearing loss results from death of hair cells, the mechanosensory receptors of the inner ear. Two goals of current hearing research are to protect hair cells from degeneration and to regenerate new hair cells, replacing those that are lost due to aging, disease, or environmental challenges. One limitation of research in the auditory field has been the relative inaccessibility of the mechanosensory systems in the inner ear. Zebrafish possess hair cells in both their inner ear and their lateral line system that are morphologically and functionally similar to human hair cells. The external location of the mechanosensory hair cells in the lateral line and the ease of in vivo labeling and imaging make the zebrafish lateral line a unique system for the study of hair cell toxicity, protection, and regeneration. This review focuses on the lateral line system as a model for understanding loss and protection of mechanosensory hair cells. We discuss chemical screens to identify compounds that induce hair cell loss and others that protect hair cells from known toxins and the potential application of these screens to human medicine.

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