Researchers have developed a technique to grow "bona fide" hair cells of the inner ear from chick sensory tissue, reports a study in this week's PNAS. The approach could help hearing researchers understand how the inner ear of birds regenerates hair cells, the authors say. "I think it's a remarkable study that beautifully illustrates the plasticity of progenitor cells from the avian inner ear," Jennifer Stone at the University of Washington told The Scientist.Jeffrey Corwin at the University of Virginia and a postdoc in his lab, Zhengqing Hu, isolated supporting cells, known to produce hair cells in birds, fish, and amphibians, from the sensory epithelium of chicken embryos. The cultures produced spheres of sensory epithelia cells, including about 15 percent hair cells. The hair cells were complete with erect stereocilia, the sensory bundles that respond to stimuli. "It really was quite a surprise to see those hair...

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