Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists find new pieces of hearing puzzle

09.05.2012
Researchers funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) have gained important new insights into how our sense of hearing works. Their findings promise new avenues for scientists to understand what goes wrong when people experience deafness. Their findings are published in Royal Society Open Biology, a new open access journal.

The team was led by Prof John Wood of UCL (University College London). Professor Wood explains: "As many people will already know, our ears are filled with tiny hair cells that move in response to the pressure of a sound wave. But exactly what happens within cells to turn that movement into an electrical signal that our brains' can interpret as sound has been puzzling scientists for decades. Our findings have given us some new insights into the puzzle."

The UCL team found that when mice lack two proteins, called TRPC3 and TRPC6, they experience about an 80% drop in their ability to detect high frequency sounds. Intriguingly, the loss of these two proteins also makes the mice slightly less sensitive to light touch sensations. When the mice that lack these proteins are brushed lightly, a third of the nerve cells which would normally fire remain inactive. This finding suggests an important link between how our bodies sense touch and sound.

Only when both TRPC3 and TRPC6 were absent was the mice's hearing and sense of touch impaired; the loss of each protein on its own had no behavioural effect on the mice. This suggests that the proteins are only parts of a more complex mechanism used in detecting sound and touch.

Professor Wood continues: "We are still a long way from a complete understanding of touch and hearing but this is a really exciting lead. Our next step is to find out what other proteins are involved in this mechanism and how they all interact. Hopefully then, once we know how the mechanism works in people who can hear, we can understand what goes wrong in people who can't."

The two proteins, TRPC3 and TRPC6, seem to be able to make a pressure-sensitive ion channel in some cells but not others. In response to tiny pressures, this channel would allow the flow of electrical signals but seems to require some, as yet uncharacterised, additional factor. This research adds to our knowledge of the potential components required for sound transduction in hair cells and provides us with molecular tools to find other interacting proteins that may play a crucial role in hearing.

Professor Wood received the funding to do this work as part of a Longer and Larger award (LoLa) from BBSRC. These provide leading research teams with the time and resources to tackle major scientific questions.

Professor Douglas Kell, BBSRC Chief Executive, said, "Human biology still holds many secrets and there are big gaps in our understanding of even fundamental processes like touch, pain and hearing. As scientists invent new techniques and technologies we are able to investigate the fundamentals of human biology in exciting new ways. This is crucial because only by deepening our understanding of how our bodies work can we find new ways of helping people when things go wrong."

Mike Davies | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht How brains surrender to sleep
23.06.2017 | IMP - Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pathologie GmbH

nachricht A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation
22.06.2017 | Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>