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Stanford researcher's discovery of ion channel turns ear on its head
Date:4/23/2009

the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communicative Disorders. Other scientists have attempted similar experiments in the past, but they used less-sensitive imaging techniques. "Our microscope took images at 500 frames per second," said Ricci, who led the imaging experiments. "That's much faster than it's ever been done before."

Ricci and colleagues also used hair cells from rats, while previous experiments had been done in bullfrogs. Because mammals have fewer, more widely spaced rows of stereocilia, the team was able to determine the precise location of the ion channels.

"They chose their experimental preparation quite wisely," Gillespie said. "The ear is really hard to get at because it's a tiny organ, it's encased in very hard bone and there are very few hair cells."

But Ricci's study wasn't just a triumph in experimental protocol. Millions of Americans suffer from hearing loss and deafness, and until scientists understand the molecular basis of normal hearing, it's difficult to understand what can go wrong. "We need to know specifically how hearing works," Ricci said, "or we can't come up with better treatments."


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Contact: Tracie White
traciew@stanford.edu
650-723-7628
Stanford University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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