'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 -
Researchers Say 'Biohybrid Robot' - Clarke Said 'Biot'
'... The biological robots were not living creatures.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1972.
Unique DNA To Foil Parts Counterfeiters
'... the only molecule, a unique protein amino acid, which could not be duplicated.' - Philip K. Dick, 1965.
Steerable Locusts Detect Explosives
Science fiction writers again provide a blueprint for the future.
Real Leather Without Cows Modern Meadow Biofabrication
'Plastissue, as any fool can see...' - WF Wallace, 1952,
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.
PassivDom 3D Printed House - What If You Could Live Anywhere?
'The houses are prefabricated units...'
Breakthrough In Manufacture Of Red Blood Cells
This blood's for you!
Caihong Solar-Powered Drone 'Atmospheric Satellite'
'... placed in the wings of a plane to generate power from the light falling on that surface.'
NASA Wants Low Earth Orbit Wifi
'This was the center of Interplanetary Communications.'
Is Genetic Testing At Businesses A Bad Idea?
It's not a topic that fares well in science fiction movies-
Wearable Smart Jacket
He pressed the button in his sleeve communicator and snapped: 'Action stations!'
Store One Bit On One Atom
'...each individual molecule has a meaning.'
Fluorescent Bacteria Fashion
'The racks of gowns itched and quivered, their colors running into blurred pools.'
Keith Laumer's Bolo Autonomous Tanks Right On Schedule
'I cannot lie idle under attack.'
When Computers Develop Their Own Language, Will They Talk To Us?
'The curious absent look of a robot talking on the TBR circuits - the Talk Between Robots radio...'
LipNet Reads Lips - Until Disconnected, That Is
'We'd have to cut his higher brain functions... I'm not sure what [HAL} would think about that.'
Eterni.me - To Skype With The Dead
'Nothing... left of Jeserac but a galaxy of electrons frozen in the heart of a crystal.'
Wearable MRI Is Former Occulus/Facebook Exec's New Project
'Your cephalochromoscope... that you always turn on and play when you get home...'
Ford Stratasys Infinte Build 3D Printer
'He proudly indicated his Buick... Almost as good as the original it was printed from...'
The Space Suit As Personal Spaceship
'Darn clever, these suits...'
Dune Fans! Your God Emperor Is Ready
'If one held a sandtrout in the hand, smoothing it over your skin, it formed a living glove.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories