A group of Harvard researchers are studying the neural pathways that enable the ears to convert vibrations from the aural environment into sound, according to an article in the Harvard Gazette. The results, “A Partial Calcium-Free Linker Confers Flexibility to Inner-Ear Protocadherin-15,” were published March 7 in Structure

Tip links, or bundles of tiny hairs in the cochlea connected via protein chains, open and move ion channels on the hairs to allow positively charged ions in; those ions generate electric signals which help the brain process sound, according to the article in the Harvard Gazette. 

Researchers are interested in studying the tip links’ mechanical strength and how they contribute to hearing loss.

Original Paper: Powers ER, Gaudet R, Sotomayor M. A partial calcium-free linker confers flexibility to inner-ear protocadherin-15. Structure. 2017; 25(3): 482-495. doi: 10.1016/j.str.2017.01.014

Source: Harvard Gazette, Structure

Image: Eduard Ionescu | Dreamstime.com