The Science Daily website published an article on September 12 2018 citing research at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180912081258.htm pertaining to discovery of new neurons in the inner ear. The discovery of these neurons can potentially lead to exciting new therapies for hearing disorders such as tinnitus, hyperacusis and age-related hearing loss.
Working from the knowledge that sound reaching the inner ear is converted into electrical signals relayed to the brain by the ear’s nerve cells in the cochlea, researchers discovered that the cells named type 1 and type 2 neurons, with type 1 transmitting auditory information, were much more complicated than previously known. The new study allowed scientists to discover four types of neurons and that the type 1 neurons actually comprise three new and different cell types, not just one.
"We now know that there are three different routes into the central auditory system, instead of just one,” says Francois Lallemend, research group leader at the Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, who led the study. “This makes us better placed to understand the part played by the different neurons in hearing.”
An important aspect of the study is the understanding that the three neuron types of cells likely play a part in “the decoding of sonic intensity (i.e. volume), a function that is crucial during conversations in a loud environment, which rely on the ability to filter out the background noise.” This is a common problem associated with hearing difficulties and also in hearing disorders such as tinnitus or hyperacusis.
“The research team conducted their study on mice using the relatively new technique of single-cell RNA sequencing. The result is a catalogue of the genes expressed in the nerve cells, which can give scientists a solid foundation for better understanding the auditory system as well as for devising new therapies and drugs.”
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