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Human inner ear hair cells are mechanosensory cells essential for hearing. Absent, defective, or damaged hair cells are a major cause of deafness or hearing impairment in people. Unfortunately, humans like other mammals are not able to regenerate their hair cells. However, other vertebrates such as birds and many species of fish are capable of hair cell regeneration. In zebrafish the gene phoenix has been found to be necessary for hair cell regeneration. However, zebrafish mutant in the phoenix gene are able to initially develop structurally and functionally normal lateral lines. This study seeks to determine whether phoenix could play a role in embryonic development, specifically a role in initial hair cell development, via maternally transferred RNA. Unfertilized eggs are examined for the presence of phoenix mRNA. Phoenix expression is knocked down during embryonic development and survival rates at different time points post fertilization are monitored. Hair cell numbers are compared between surviving larvae having developed with phoenix knocked down and control larvae. Despite the fact that most maternal RNA is degraded or simply diluted past the concentration of efficacy by the end of the mid-blastula transition, it is conceivable that phoenix RNA of maternal origin could be involved in initial hair cell development (Behra, Bradsher, Sougrat, Gallardo, Allende, and Burgess, 2009).
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Clark, Frances Kerin, "The Role of ‘phoenix’ During Early Development in Danio rerio" (2015). Senior Projects Spring 2015. 201.