Resembling a necklace with strings of rubies and emeralds, this image, courtesy of biologist Angelika Doetzlhofer, shows a snapshot of a rodent’s inner ear. The green arcs represent hair cells, which send information gathered from sound vibrations to the brain and glowing in red are supporting cells that nourish and protect hair cells. In a normal cochlea, a single row of inner hair cells (brighter green arcs) lie adjacent to three rows of outer hair cells (fainter green arcs). Using images like this one, Doetzlhofer has observed that this precise organization is critical for hearing.
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