Apoptosis, or controlled cell death, is a normal part of cellular lifespan. Cell death of cochlear hair cells causes deafness; an apoptotic process that is not well understood. Worldwide, 1.3 billion humans suffer some form of hearing loss, while 360 million suffer debilitating hearing loss as a direct result of the absence of these cochlear hair cells (Worldwide Hearing, 2014). Much is known about apoptosis in other systems and in other cell types thanks to studies done since the mid-20th century. Here we review current literature on apoptosis in general, and causes of deafness and cochlear hair cells loss as a result of apoptosis. The family of B-cell lymphoma (Bcl) proteins are among the most studied and characterized. We will review current literature on the Bcl2 and Bcl6 protein interactions in relation to apoptosis and their possible roles in vulnerability and survival of cochlear hair cells.
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