Building the mammalian cochlea — an overview
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- Bok, J. Genes Genom (2010) 32: 1. doi:10.1007/s13258-010-0001-1
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The mammalian cochlea is a highly intricate organ responsible for hearing. Numerous specialized cell types residing in the cochlear participate in processing and relaying sound information to the brain. In general, cells in the cochlea are divided into three major types: sensory, neural, and non-sensory. Sensory cells are a group of cells in the organ of Corti consisting of hair cells and supporting cells. Sensory hair cells play a primary role in detecting and processing sound in the form of vibrations. Neural cells are the neurons and glia in the spiral (cochlear) ganglion that relay the processed sound signals in the form of a neurotransmitter to the brain. Other non-sensory cells include all other cell types providing architectural and functional support. Building a functional cochlea requires tightly orchestrated, spatial and temporal regulation of gene expressions. Disruption of the normal gene expression patterns can cause developmental failure of the organ, which can lead to permanent hearing loss. Thus, comprehensive understanding of genes contributing to cochlear development is crucial for elucidating the pathological mechanisms of hearing loss. This article is intended to provide an overview of mammalian cochlear development, focusing on genes involved in its early patterning.