Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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See, Hear

Seeing the inner ear's organ of Corti using a novel combination of techniques

23 March 2019

See, Hear

Every sound you can hear right now is formed of vibrations in the air. These vibrations shake tiny sensors in your ear, which convert motion into molecular messages that your brain interprets as sound. These sensors sit in along a spiral shaped structure called the organ of Corti. Mapping out the exact structure of this coil and its cells would help decipher what happens when hearing deteriorates, but classic dissection techniques lose much of the 3D structure – problematic as different parts respond to different sound frequencies, and much hearing loss is frequency-dependent. With a combination of tissue clearing – a technique that renders organs transparent for visualisation – and machine-learning pattern recognition, a new study has produced 3D high definition images (pictured from above the side). This will provide a glimpse at both normal hearing and disease progression, potentially one day leading to new therapies for age-related hearing loss.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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