University of Iowa biologist Daniel Eberl and his colleagues have shown that one of the mechanisms involved in hearing is similar to the battery in your car.
And if that isn't interesting enough, the UI scientists advanced their knowledge of human hearing by studying a similar auditory system in fruit flies—and by making use of the fruit fly "love song."
To see how the mechanism of hearing resembles a battery, you need to know that the auditory system of the fruit fly contains a protein that functions as a sodium/potassium pump, often called the sodium pump for short, and is highly expressed in a specialized support cell called the scolopale cell.
The scolopale cell is important because it wraps around the sensory endings in the fly's ear and makes a tight extra-cellular cavity or compartment around them called the scolopale space.
"You could think of these compartments as similar to the compartments of a battery that need to be charged up so they can drive electrons through circuits," says Eberl, whose paper made the cover of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "In the auditory system, the charge in the scolopale space drives ions, or electrically charged atoms, through membrane channels in the sensory endings that open briefly in response to activation by sounds.
"Our work shows that the sodium pump plays a particularly important role in this cell to help replenish or recharge this compartment with the right ions. The human ear also relies on a compartment called the scala media, which similarly drives ions into the sensory cells of the ear," he says.
How was the research done? This is where the fruit fly love song comes into play.
Testing whether or not a fruit fly can hear the love song—a sound generated by a vibrating wing—enables Eberl to learn whether electrical recharging is occurring in the fly ear. The fruit fly love song played a role in the research by stimulating the fly to move whenever a sound was emitted and received.
"In these experiments we tested the fly's hearing by inserting tiny electrodes in the fly's antenna, then measuring the electrical responses when we play back computer-generated love songs," he says.
Eberl notes there are many similarities between fruit fly and human mechanisms of hearing. That means his work on the fly model to identify additional new components required for generating the correct ion balance in the ear will help scientists to understand the human process in more detail.
Eberl's co-authors on the paper are Madhuparna Roy, postdoctoral associate at the University of Pittsburgh, and Elena Sivan-Loukianova, UI biology research scientist. At the time of the research, Roy was a graduate student in the UI Graduate College studying in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Biology.
The title of the paper, published last week, is "Cell-type-specific roles of Na+/K+ ATPase subunits in Drosophila auditory mechanosensation."
University of Iowa: http://www.uiowa.edu
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
Corals stir up the water, creating vortices that draw in nutrients and drive away waste, research reveals.
The "gold bowl of Hasanlu" and three skeletons were excavated from beneath a burned building in an ancient Iranian citadel – now we know the full story
Study of engravings in Gibraltar cave could be final nail in the coffin of hypothesis that Neanderthals were cognitively inferior to modern humans
Claims that Ai Hin was faking pregnancy to get better treatment have been debunked by leading panda expert
The recent release of Susan Greenfields new book and the film Lucy, both of which are dependent on tired misconceptions or dubious theories about the brain, suggest one worrying conclusion: we are running out of myths about the brain. So here are some new ones, to keep things mysterious
These are the siphonophores, some 180 known species of gelatinous strings that can grow to 100 feet long, making them some of the longest critters on the planet. But instead of growing as a single body like virtually every other animal, siphonophores clone themselves thousands of times over into half a dozen different types of specialized cloned bodies, all strung together to work as a team---a very deadly team at that.
Researchers who study memory have had a thrilling couple of years. Some have erased memories in people with electroshock therapy, for example. Others have figured out, in mice, how to create false memories and even turn bad memories into good ones.
Hunting bats don't just listen out for male frogs' mating calls: they can also use echolocation to detect when the frogs inflate their throat sacs
A crèche of 30 dinosaur infants looked over by an older animal shows that even terrible lizards needed a night away from the kids
Families have identifiable collections of microbes that travel with them. It can take just 24 hours for the microbes to take over a new house