The upright posture and rich vocalizations of primates place demands on their senses of balance and hearing that differ from those of other animals. There is a wealth of behavioral, psychophysical, and CNS measures characterizing these senses in primates, but no prior recordings from their inner ear sensory receptor cells. We harvested human hair cells from patients undergoing surgical removal of life-threatening brain stem tumors and measured their ionic currents and electromotile responses. The hair cells were either isolated or left in situ in their sensory epithelium and investigated using the tight-seal, whole cell technique. We recorded from both type I and type II vestibular hair cells under voltage clamp and found four voltage-dependent currents, each of which has been reported in hair cells of other animals. Cochlear outer hair cells demonstrated electromotility in response to voltage steps like that seen in rodent animal models. Our results reveal many qualitative similarities to hair cells obtained from other animals and justify continued investigations to explore quantitative differences that may be associated with normal or pathological human sensation.
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