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Hear you are

作者:简破痘    发布时间:2019-03-07 04:14:08    

By Jonathan Knight in San Francisco SENSING the position of your body in space may be a modified form of hearing. The gene that triggers the growth of sound-sensing cells in the ear is also responsible for skin cells that monitor how we move. Earlier this year, researchers reported that a gene called Math1 prompts the growth of sensory hair cells that pick up sound in the inner ears of mammals (New Scientist, 19 June, p 27). And fruit flies missing their version of the gene, called atonal, don’t have the sensory bristles that normally cover their bodies. They also lack specialised cells that sense gravity, which means they can’t fly. Nessan Bermingham and his colleagues at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston thought Math1 might spawn sensory cells in mammals’ skin. They replaced a copy of the gene in mice with the gene for an enzyme that stains cells blue, leaving the portion of the gene that controls Math1 expression intact. The mouse embryos had microscopic blue polka dots on their skin, and in their inner ears. The stained skin cells were Merkel cells, which sense changes in mechanical force. They relay information about skin stretch that helps the brain work out the position of the torso and limbs. Understanding the events set in motion by Math1, or the human version Hath1, could lead to treatments for deafness or faulty position sensing. Gene therapy with Hath1might make people sprout new sensory hair cells, or replace missing Merkel cells. But the gene is not likely to be responsible for congenital problems. “We don’t expect to find any linked to this gene,” says Bermingham. Mice lacking both copies of Math1 have a brain-stem defect which means they can’t breathe, so babies born with faulty Hath1 genes wouldn’t survive. More on these topics:

 

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