Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Splitting Hairs

Protein identified that's key to development of cilia – the hair-like protrusions on cells lining the body's inner passageways

06 October 2019

Splitting Hairs

Bad hair days can feel like disasters, but it could be worse. As well as the hair on our heads, we have countless microscopic hair-like structures, called cilia, lining inner passageways of our body, and when they’re out of place a whole range of conditions, from kidney disease to deafness, can arise. Since they can’t be trimmed by a hairdresser, these tiny protrusions manage their own number and length, and scientists want to better understand this process. To investigate, researchers suppressed the activity of a particular protein thought to be involved, in Tetrahymena, a single-celled organism covered in cilia. Without the key protein, the cells grew fewer, longer cilia (right) than normal (left), revealing an important regulatory role. Understanding how length is controlled could be the first step in developing new treatments to intervene when growth goes wrong, and ensure there’s not a single cilium out of place.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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