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Development of the Ear 

Development of the Ear
Chapter:
Development of the Ear
Author(s):

Donna M. Fekete

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780199934522.003.0009
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date: 07 March 2021

The outer, middle and inner ears function in series to subserve the sense of hearing, with the coiled cochlea as the key inner ear component that houses the mechanosensory hair cells. The sense of balance is also mediated by the inner ear. Vestibular sensory organs are associated with the semicircular canals, the utricle and the saccule. Both sensory systems must make axonal connections between the inner ear and the brain stem. The development of the ear involves a complex convergence of cells from disparate embryonic origins: the inner ear primarily from placodal ectoderm, the middle ear from head mesoderm, neural crest cells and pharyngeal endoderm, and the outer ear from neural crest and head ectoderm. The coordination of these tissues involves multiple inductive steps among these ear components as well as between ear components and the surrounding hindbrain, mesoderm and ectoderm. This chapter summarizes information about numerous secreted factors and transcription factors that regulate ear induction, morphogenesis, cell fate specification, cell patterning and polarity of the sensory organs. Detailed molecular information about these complex developmental events in animal models can inform clinicians seeking to understand the hundreds of different forms of syndromic and non-syndromic deafness, as well as congenital balance disorders in human patients.

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