Imagine an ultrasound device so small, it could travel through the eardrum, onwards through the middle ear and then rest against the inner ear to provide images of the basilier membrane as at it vibrates, sending messages to the brain as it interprets sound.
It’s not science fiction a la Fantastic Voyage—it’s what Dalhousie University researcher Jeremy Brown is developing in collaboration with ear surgeon Manohar Bance, professor of Otology, Neurotology and Skull Base Surgery with Dalhousie’s Faculty of Medicine.
“We’ve been taking what’s called a ‘bench top to bedside’ approach,” says Dr. Brown, assistant professor of Biomedical Engineering at Dalhousie. “I’d have no idea if this was possible unless I was paired with a surgeon … the collaboration is working out great so far.”
The miniature device measures a mere two millimeters in diameter. Yet, even at that size, the probe contains 150 elements—tiny transducers that vibrate when electric signals are applied. Once planted deep within the ear through a minor surgical procedure, the probe would be able to detect scarring from implants in the middle ear, for example, or detect the ravages of diseases like Meniere’s, an inner-ear disorder which causes episodes of vertigo.
“What’s exciting is that no one has really done this before,” says Dr. Brown, whose interest in sound and sound perception comes from being a musician.
Now, the researchers are ready to take the next step and build on prototypes that have been tested on mice. Money received from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation’s Leaders Opportunity Fund and matched by the Nova Scotia Research and Innovation Trust—$311,000 all told—will allow them to acquire equipment developed by the semi-conductor industry to build and further refine the miniature devices.
“This equipment is so unbelievably good, that we can just piggyback on it to do what we need it to do,” says Dr. Brown.
He is also collaborating with Dr. Bance on a second “small” project, to develop tiny, surgically implanted hearing aids.
Charles Crosby | Newswise Science News
Investigators may unlock mystery of how staph cells dodge the body's immune system
22.09.2017 | Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
Monitoring the heart's mitochondria to predict cardiac arrest?
21.09.2017 | Boston Children's Hospital
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
22.09.2017 | Life Sciences
22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering
22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy