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Internal Ear Cochlea, 200X
The cochlea s a spiral-shaped cavity in the bony labyrinth, in humans making 2.5 turns around its axis, the modiolus. A core component of the cochlea is the Organ of Corti, the sensory organ of hearing, which is distributed along the partition separating fluid chambers in the coiled tapered tube of the cochlea. The name is derived from the Latin word for snail shell. Gap-junction proteins, called connexins, expressed in the cochlea play an important role in auditory functioning. Certain connexins, including connexin 30 and connexin 26, are prevalent in the two distinct gap-junction systems found in the cochlea. The epithelial-cell gap-junction network couples non-sensory epithelial cells, while the connective-tissue gap-junction network couples connective-tissue cells. Gap-junction channels recycle potassium ions back to the endolymph after mechanotransduction in hair cells. Importantly, gap junction channels are found between cochlear supporting cells, but not auditory hair cells.