Our sense of hearing depends on a complicated process, converting sound waves received by our ears to nerve impulses sent to the brain. Sound makes the eardrum vibrate, causing the bones of the middle ear to move and eventually push fluid through the cochlea, where it deflects bundles of microscopic hairs on the surface of inner ear cells. In turn, these deflections open up ion channels in the cell membranes, producing electrochemical signals. For this system to work, hair bundles must all be carefully aligned in the same direction, requiring organisation both within and between cells. Recent research on mice suggests that a protein named Daple coordinates these processes to achieve perfect alignment between the hair bundles (as shown in the upper panel). Without Daple, hair bundles become disorganised and distorted (lower panel), indicating the crucial role of this protein for the correct development of the inner ear.
Written by Emmanuelle Briolat
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