By using a device that provides high-resolution images of the inner ear, researchers are learning about the mechanics of hearing. In order to develop therapies for hearing loss, it’s important to understand the functions of different areas of the cochlea, and until now, that hasn’t been very easy.
Because the cochlea is so small and difficult to access, researchers haven’t been able to study it very easily without causing damage to the ear. But by using this technology (OCT, or optical coherence tomography), researchers at Texas A&M and Stanford have been able to gather information about the way the cochlea converts vibrations into nerve impulses to create sound without having to open the bone around it.
The concept has been proven in mice, and researchers have been able to gather measurements without causing any damage to the mouse cochlea or surrounding tissues. A prototype device has been developed for human use. If researchers can map the human cochlea and determine what happens to the inner ear during progressive or traumatic loss, it’s possible that specific therapies for hearing loss will be able to be developed! Read more about it here:
Alzheimer’s Disease affects over 35 million people worldwide, and it’s expected that by 2050, over 115 million people will suffer from this disease. Understanding this disease is important- so what do worms and paper airplanes have to do with anything?
As you age, proteins in your brain build up and can prevent normal cell function. Neural damage due to protein build-up is seen in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s disease. But researchers have found a molecule that can enhance defense mechanisms against these toxic proteins. And recent studies have shown that it effectively clears these proteins out of worms (C. elegans) and extends their lifespan.
It sounds far-fetched, but this little worm can actually give scientists a lot of valuable information. By using such simple organisms, researchers can understand more about the underlying mechanisms of dementia. It’s like making paper airplanes- the aerodynamic principles behind paper airplane flight are also relevant when it comes to the principles behind flying a Boeing 777. Think of these little worms as the paper airplanes, and the brain of an Alzheimer’s patient as the Boeing 777. Let’s hope that these worms give researchers the important information they need to help develop a successful therapy for Alzheimer’s!