'Volume Control' Ear Protein Uncovered
The nAChR protein found on sensory hair cells in the ear has been found to be a 'volume control' for the hearing system. It is part of a system that allows the ear to turn itself down to protect against permanent hearing loss.
To get a better handle on this sound-limiting system in the ear, the research team built on previous findings in the field and focused their efforts on the nAChR protein found on so-called sensory hair cells in the ear. Nerve cells from the brain release signals that are picked up by nAChR and turn down these sensory hair cells.
The team genetically altered a single building block in the nAChR protein and tested mice for their ability to hear. "This point mutation was designed to produce a so-called gain of function in which the inhibitory effect of ACh should be greater than normal," says Fuchs.
The altered mice were less able to hear soft sounds than normal mice, showing that the genetic alteration made in the nAChR protein did indeed further "turn down" the ear. The team then asked if the alteration in nAChR, and therefore the improved sound-blocking ability of these altered mice, also could protect from sound damage.
After blasting mice with 100-decibel sound, mice with the altered nAChR suffered less permanent hearing damage compared to normal mice. One of the study's authors, Paul Fuchs, Ph.D., professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery and co-director of the Center for Sensory Biology at the Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences at Johns Hopkins, commented that there was "a real chance of finding ear-specific drugs in the future."
Writer Larry Niven remarks on this ability in his 1966 novel World of Ptavvs (I don't know if it was present in the novella published in 1965):
As he left the elevator Luke met the usual continuous roar. He waited ten seconds while his ears "learned" to ignore it; an essential mechanism, learned by most children before they were three.
Here's another quote from A Gift From Earth (1968):
The noise hit them as they opened the door. Matt stood still while his ears adjusted to the noise level - a survival trait his ancestors had developed when Earth's population numbered nineteen billion, even as it did that night, eleven point nine light-years away.
Via Eurekalert; thanks to an anonymous reader for pointing out the article and the sf connection (I hope I found the one you mentioned). Also, see another hundred or so ideas and inventions from the mind of Larry Niven.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 1/22/2009)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 2 )
Related News Stories -
Mechanical Milking Of Microalgae For Fuel Production
'They call 'em culture tanks. They have bugs -- germs -- growing in them.' - Hal Clement, 1950.
Fetal Lamb Rests In Artificial Womb
'... stewing warm on their cushion of peritoneum and gorged with blood-surrogate and hormones, the foetuses grew and grew...' - Aldous Huxley, 1932.
Bring Back Extinct Animals! Sort of.
'The worldwide network of genetic arks had a surfeit of pachyderms...' - David Brin, 1990
Another Soil Bacterium Eats Plastic
'...the plastic was dissolved before his eyes.' - Michael Crichton, 1969.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Habitability Of Galactic Bulge - Good News For Foundation Fans
'Toran resigned himself to days of careful plotting between Jumps.'
Lava Tubes On Mars And Moon May Be Huge
'Most of the stuff written about Bats' Cave gives a wrong impression.'
Olfactory User Interfaces - Judith Amores Dissertation
Awakened with a whiff of lemon.
Personalized Masks Appear
'The tiger stripes on Jim's mask... made the young people easy to identify.'
Foiling Facial Recognition, Fighting Coaster Viruses, Harlan Ellison-Style
I have no mouth and I must scream.
Ford Uses Obedient Robot Dogs To Update Facilities Maps
'If he sent out two or three of the small tele-operated devices... [he] could see machinery and construction details in real time from both above and below.'
AirTouch Panels Means No More Dirty Touchscreens!
Useful interfaces now appear in thin air.
EllipticaRunner Robot Is Fast, Amazing, Slightly Worrisome
'THEY sent A SLAMHOUND on Turner's trail in New Delhi...'
SPECTER Electroshock Round Fireable From Shotgun
'...the balls sent by this gun are not ordinary balls, but little
cases of glass.'
100 Terabyte Exadrive SSD Also Has Biggest Price
'A man could carry AIs or complete planetary dataspheres in a Schrön loop.'
Mechanical Milking Of Microalgae For Fuel Production
'They call 'em culture tanks. They have bugs -- germs -- growing in them.'
Feel Virtual Reality In Mid-Air!
'...a pressure on the lips - warm and soft, moist and sweet.'
Electric Lasso Gives Police Options
'The blast of silver threads enveloped her...'
TytoCare Offers Futuristic Home Care
'Immediately an enormous apparatus fell on to her out of the ceiling...'
Powdered Regolith Propulsion
'... filling their great tanks with the finely divided dust which the ionic rockets would spit out in electrified jets.'
Ford's SafeCap, Opposite Of Niven and Barnes' Napcap
'In the napcap a client became an instant yoga master...'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories