Action on Hearing Loss Logo
    Total results:
    Search
      Total results:

      The cuticular plate: the foundations of hearing

      Tiny sensory cells in the inner ear, called hair cells, are vital for our hearing. One particular part of the hair cell, the cuticular plate, has recently been the focus of research by a team at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. The structure was found to play an important role in hearing and it was discovered that defects in it may lead to hearing loss.

      By: Dr Marta Narkiewicz | 15 April 2019

      Inside the hair cell, the cuticular plate serves as a foundation that anchors the tuft of vibration-sensing structures called hair bundles. When sound waves (vibrations) enter the cochlea, the fluid inside it moves. When the hair bundles detect this movement, they trigger sound signals in the auditory nerve, which sends the sound information to the brain. 

      The pioneering research carried out by Jung-Bum Shin and his team at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, sheds light on the function of the cuticular plate, which for the most part has remained unexplored. This has mainly been due to a lack of tools available to scientists to probe its inner workings, but this is starting to change.

      The team used a range of techniques to investigate a protein called LIM domain only protein 7, which is encoded by the LM07 gene. They showed that this protein is found inside the cuticular plate.

      When the team blocked the activity of the gene in mice, they found:

      • the cuticular plate was weaker and much thinner
      • there was a reduction in the amount of F- actin (a vital part of the cell’s cytoskeleton) within the cuticular plate
      • there were defects in the arrangement of the anchor points of the hair bundle.

      These observations suggest that LMO7 protein is a vital component of the cuticular plate, helping to keep the hair bundle stiff and anchored. They also showed that the cochlea’s tuning and sensitivity to vibrations was altered in mice lacking the LMO7 gene, presumably because the hair bundle had lost its stiffness.

      Despite the fact that these abnormalities were detectable at a very early age, hearing was not affected until much later, indicating that defects in the cuticular plate could over time give rise to late-onset, progressive hearing loss.

      The research was carried out on mice, but LM07 is common to all vertebrates, which suggests that mutations in the human version of the gene could lead to age-related hearing loss in people.

      Next steps

      Age-related hearing loss is a complicated condition and it is likely that a number of factors, including other genes and a variety of environmental factors, play a role. The next steps for the team include investigating how genetic risks, such as those posed by LM07, interact with a range of environmental factors. For example, could people with a weakened cuticular plate be more susceptible to the damaging effects of loud noise?

      Research details

      This study, led by Ting-Ting Du, a postdoctoral researcher in the Shin lab, was a collaborative effort with other laboratories at the University of Virginia, the National Institutes of Health and Stanford University. The findings have been published in the journal Nature Communications.

      The hair cell
      The hair cell

      Recent Posts

      Developing an objective test for tinnitus

      Our new PhD students started their research projects in October, studying topics from a new way to measure tinnitus to improving cochlear implant surgery.

      By: Ralph Holme
      16 December 2019

      Research breakthrough in hair cell regeneration

      Researchers in the US recently discovered a way to ‘re-programme’ inner ear cells to produce cells similar to the sound-sensing hair cells in adult mice. This is an important step forward in research to develop treatments for hearing loss, as cells in the adult inner ear do not naturally replace themselves when they are damaged.

      By: Tracey Pollard
      13 December 2019

      Lloyds Bank launches sign language support for online Customers

      Lloyds Bank has announced they are the first UK organisation to offer Signly, a pioneering website translation tool for Sign Language customers.

      By: Kevin Taylor
      12 December 2019

      International Symposium on Inner Ear Therapeutics

      Earlier this month Action on Hearing Loss joined scientists, pharmaceutical companies and clinicians from around the world in Hanover, Germany, to discuss the latest developments in treatments for inner ear-related diseases, including hearing loss and tinnitus.

      By: Cláudia Gonçalves
      19 November 2019