Hair cells, with the hallmark of the stereocilia bundle at their apical surface, are the sensory receptors of the auditory and vestibular systems in the ears of vertebrates. Hair cells transduce mechanical stimuli into electrical activity. In addition to the stereocilia bundle, hair cells also contain structural and functional specializations in the basolateral and synaptic membranes, which are responsible for electrical activities and synaptic transmission. The supporting cells in the sensory epithelium contribute to the mechanics and the homeostasis of the ionic and chemical environment in the inner ear, especially in the mammalian hearing organ.
While mechanotransduction through shearing of the stereocilia bundle is a shared feature of all hair cells, major differences exist among hair cells of vertebrates. For example, hair cells in zebrafish and chicken enhance their sensitivity and frequency selectivity by an electrical resonance tuned to a specific frequency and by an active, force-generation process in the stereocilia bundle. In contrast, mammalian hair cells in the cochlea are not electrically tuned. Instead, mammals achieve high sensitivity and frequency selectivity by a mechanically tuned basilar membrane and by acquiring a prestin-based somatic motility of outer hair cells, one of the two types of hair cells in the cochlea. Furthermore, hair cells in lower vertebrates are able to be spontaneously regenerated once lost. In contrast, mammalian hair cells no longer retain that capability. The molecular mechanisms underlying these differences are still unknown.
Molecular insights and the need to find a cure for hearing impairment caused by ototoxic drugs, noise, and aging--afflicting over 1 billion people worldwide--has boosted interest in examining the genes and molecular mechanisms underlying different biological properties of hair cells, as well as exploring strategies to regenerate and/or repair lost or injured hair cells using stem cell and gene therapies. In this Research Topic, we call for papers that will advance our understanding of the biological properties of hair cells among vertebrates. Potential topics of interests include:
1. Genes and molecular mechanisms underlying hair cell differentiation, development, and regeneration as well as morphological and functional specializations.
2. Transcriptomes and proteomics of hair cells.
3. Hair cell regeneration or repair using stem cells and gene therapies.
4. Comparative studies of hair cell morphology, function, and gene expression profiles in vertebrates.
5. Synaptopathy of hair cells.
6. Novel methods and protocols for the study of hair cell biological properties.
Journal of Hair Therapy and Transplantation
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