New contributor to age-related hearing loss identified

ScienceDaily | 3/12/2019 | Staff
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The auditory receptors of the inner ear, called hair cells, pick up sounds using a vibration-sensing antenna called the hair bundle. While much research into hearing loss has focused on the hair bundle, UVA's discovery spotlights the foundations those antennas stand on. The finding suggests that genetic predisposition can cause this "cuticular plate," as the foundation is known, to weaken over time. "We find that it [the cuticular plate] is important for the ability of the hair cells to detect sound but also for the overall vibrations that happen in the cochlea," said UVA researcher Jung-Bum Shin, PhD. "Defects in this cuticular plate appear to lead to progressive hearing loss."

Shin, of UVA's Department of Neuroscience, is one of the earliest explorers of the molecular composition of the cuticular plate. Until now, he said, scientists have largely lacked the tools to probe its workings. Shin and his team, however, found an innovative way to investigate what he called "the mechanical foundation on which the skyscrapers of the hair bundles are sitting."

Protein - Plate - Team - Gene - Lmo7

By identifying a protein particular to the cuticular plate, the team determined that the gene Lmo7 is vital for the plate's long-term stability in mice. When the researchers blocked the gene's effects, the mice gradually developed age-related hearing loss. Without the Lmo7 protein, "the structure of the plate is not as strong as it should be," Shin said. "At some point, the system notices, leading to deterioration of overall...
(Excerpt) Read more at: ScienceDaily
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