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Think again about trimming your ear hair…

March 14th, 2012
by Tania

If you're thinking about trimming your ear hair, you might want to reconsider, as researchers have recently found that hair-cell roots in the ear could help the brain modulate sound sensitivity.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine have found a previously unknown root extension in the inner ear that may allow them to communicate with nerve cells and the brain to regulate sensitivity to sound vibrations and head position.

The recent finding will be reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and reveal that when you move your head, or when a sound vibration enters your ear, motion of fluid in the ear causes the tip-links to get displaced and stretched, opening up ion channels and exciting the cell, which can then relay information to the brain, says Anna Lysakowski, professor of anatomy and cell biology at the UIC College of Medicine and principal investigator on the study.

Previous work concluded that the roots of the stereocilia ended in the cuticular plate. But the researchers found that the roots continue through, make a sharp 110-degree angle, and extend all the way to the membrane at the opposite side of the cell, where they connect with the striated organelle. This could reinvent theories on how hair cells work.

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