Researchers learn mechanism of hearing is similar to car battery

Jan 07, 2013 by Gary Galluzzo
Located within the antenna of a fruit fly, the auditory organ (pictured) is shown being activated in response to the fruit fly love song. The sodium pump is stained in green, while blue highlights nuclei and red stains the cytoskeletal protein, actin. Credit: Image provided by Madhuparna Roy.

(—University of Iowa biologist Daniel Eberl and his colleagues have shown that one of the mechanisms involved in hearing is similar to the battery in your car.

And if that isn't interesting enough, the UI scientists advanced their knowledge of human hearing by studying a similar in —and by making use of the fruit fly "love song."

To see how the mechanism of hearing resembles a battery, you need to know that the auditory system of the fruit fly contains a protein that functions as a sodium/potassium pump, often called the sodium pump for short, and is highly expressed in a specialized support cell called the scolopale cell.

The scolopale cell is important because it wraps around the sensory endings in the fly's ear and makes a tight extra-cellular cavity or compartment around them called the scolopale space.

"You could think of these compartments as similar to the compartments of a battery that need to be charged up so they can drive through circuits," says Eberl, whose paper made the cover of the journal . "In the auditory system, the charge in the scolopale space drives , or electrically charged atoms, through membrane channels in the sensory endings that open briefly in response to activation by sounds.

"Our work shows that the sodium pump plays a particularly important role in this cell to help replenish or recharge this compartment with the right ions. The also relies on a compartment called the scala media, which similarly drives ions into the of the ear," he says.

How was the research done? This is where the fruit fly love song comes into play.

Testing whether or not a fruit fly can hear the love song—a sound generated by a vibrating wing—enables Eberl to learn whether electrical recharging is occurring in the fly ear. The fruit fly love song played a role in the research by stimulating the fly to move whenever a sound was emitted and received.

"In these experiments we tested the fly's hearing by inserting tiny electrodes in the fly's antenna, then measuring the electrical responses when we play back computer-generated love songs," he says.

Eberl notes there are many similarities between fruit fly and human mechanisms of hearing. That means his work on the fly model to identify additional new components required for generating the correct ion balance in the ear will help scientists to understand the human process in more detail.

Eberl's co-authors on the paper are Madhuparna Roy, postdoctoral associate at the University of Pittsburgh, and Elena Sivan-Loukianova, UI biology research scientist. At the time of the research, Roy was a graduate student in the UI Graduate College studying in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Biology.

Explore further: Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

More information: The title of the paper, published last week, is "Cell-type-specific roles of Na+/K+ ATPase subunits in Drosophila auditory mechanosensation."

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User comments : 11

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1 / 5 (2) Jan 07, 2013
i believe when you "learn" something it is because someone else teaches opposed to discovering a new fact...once again physorg editors prove their ignorance.
5 / 5 (2) Jan 07, 2013
If you wish, you can say that Nature can also teach you...don't be too narrow in your definitions.
not rated yet Jan 07, 2013
i believe when you "learn" something it is because someone else teaches opposed to discovering a new fact...once again physorg editors prove their ignorance.

i dont follow. you can learn things from a non human source, say i want to go outside and examine my oak tree in the back yard, i will learn more about it, yet no one taught it to me. i learned it on my own.
1 / 5 (1) Jan 07, 2013
You had me stumped until reading the articles' four paragraph:
"You could think of these compartments as similar to the compartments of a battery that need to be charged up so they can drive electrons through circuits," says Eberl, whose paper made the cover of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "In the auditory system, the charge in the scolopale space drives ions, or electrically charged atoms, through membrane channels in the sensory endings that open briefly in response to activation by sounds."

Is there any life form (systems thereof) that are not 'charge' driven?
The battery analogy is going to wreak havoc on young minds.

1 / 5 (1) Jan 07, 2013
Start with the assertion that no one 'taught' you breathing or to take your first breath.
Or the assertion that no one 'teaches' anyone hearing as well.
Why stop there?
The artifact of learning is what humans labeled or worded 'teaching'.
An artifact may be defined as an object that has been intentionally made or produced for a certain purpose.

"a certain purpose" means here all institutionalized education.

To confuse the issue, all humans label the place (where the artifact 'teaching' occurs) 'institutes of (higher!?) 'learning'!**

**(To obscure the fact that no such event as 'learning' ever
occurred in the name of 'teaching' there!)
Whydening Gyre
1 / 5 (2) Jan 07, 2013
Tau, you cynical son of a gun...
Pretty correct - but still a cynic...:-)
1 / 5 (2) Jan 08, 2013
I'm not quite sure how to say this so that people listen, but there is a very active and highly successful line of investigation ongoing at the University of Washington by Gerald Pollack which demonstrates that since the cytoplasm is in fact a gel, that there is no actual need for these pumps and channels. Gels induce ionic gradients all by themselves, with extreme efficiency actually. And Pollack is having incredible success explaining a whole host of systems within organisms using this conceptual approach. It not only explains why life needs water, but it also solves the problem that the cell membrane poses for the formation of life in the universe.

After reading his book (Cells, Gels and the Engines of Life), and having seen him speak now twice, it's become quite clear that his research on water and gels is extraordinarily important to the field of medicine.
1 / 5 (2) Jan 08, 2013
Gerald Pollack's work also appears to leave us with an extremely testable claim: That experimentalists who have attempted to create life from inanimate matter should take an extremely careful look at the 270 nm infrared wavelength as a possible and critical missing element in their experiments. Pollack's work is *highly* suggestive that the human body routinely harvests energy at this frequency, and that this frequency plays an incredibly important role in the movement of blood through the circulatory system. It's also possibly suggestive of a very specific location for the emergence of life: within the illuminated, water-saturated atmospheres of brown dwarf stars (Wal Thornhill's theory).
1 / 5 (1) Jan 08, 2013
...there is no actual need for these pumps and channels.- HA

All cells have pumps and channels. Are these redundant features
(backups?)if gels replace the need(the function(s))reasoned to explain the present of channels and pumps?

If the defining characteristic of all (physical) systems is information, then life can be (re)define by the way information is distributed (mutually interacting by way of information transfer not information transmission.)

Such a definition dispenses with the notion that carbon is an indispensable element to define life.

Such a definition will always distinguish a difference between what is now (and always will be) labeled as AI as opposed to what we (are inclined to) insist represents life.

Such a definition arising from classical and quantum information theories are endeavors of present day research.
1 / 5 (2) Jan 12, 2013
People have been calling the inner ear a battery for decades which seems fair enough. I do agree with the comments regarding, Cells, Gels, and Gerald Pollack, he may not have it all right yet, but it is clear Mr. Pollack understands a heck of a lot more about the situation inside cells then the rest of the researchers.
1 / 5 (1) Jan 12, 2013
Simply knock out the genes responsible for pumps and channels of any cell. More than doable by present day lab standards.
What happens to such a cell?

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