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Underwater balancing act

6:24am, November 5, 2003

Tweaking the structure of crystals nestled in the inner ears of zebrafish can throw the fish off balance, biologists have found. During development, proteins guide the assembly of calcium carbonate molecules into tiny crystals called otoliths. These structures, which lie on top of gravity-sensing organs in the inner ear, influence both balance and hearing.

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen, Germany, and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, France, identified a gene that codes for one of the crystal-organizing proteins.

When the researchers hindered the activity of the gene, th

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