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

      Five steps to a more deaf-friendly workplace

      Is hearing loss affecting you at work? Do you sometimes feel stressed and isolated? Our Working for Change campaign aims to change attitudes in the workplace, so that people who are deaf or have hearing loss can thrive. Follow our five steps to a more deaf-friendly workplace. Then check out our products and services to help you focus on your job, not your hearing.

      By: Sally Bromham
      20 June 2019

      Our top five smoke alarms

      Would you hear a smoke alarm in the event of a fire? People with hearing loss may not be woken by an audible alarm. Plus, if you use hearing aids, you’re less likely to hear your smoke alarm when you take them out to sleep. Our smoke alarms are designed to work in a ‘system’, providing additional visual and vibrating alerts. Here’s a roundup of our top five smoke alarms to protect your home and family, with 10% off from 25 – 31 July 2019.

      By: Sally Bromham
      20 June 2019

      Bring your Dog to Work Day

      This 21 June is national ‘Bring Your Dog To Work Day’, but for people with assistance dogs, this is an everyday occurrence. James, one of our profoundly deaf supporters, was partnered with his hearing dog, Cracker, in October 2018 after applying for assistance through the UK based charity Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. Read about his story and his tips for working with deaf people.

      By: James
      19 June 2019

      Our top three telephone amplifiers

      Do you have trouble hearing the caller’s voice when you’re on the phone? If you’re happy with your existing phone, a telephone amplifier might be all you need to make your conversations louder and clearer. Check out our top three telephone amplifiers to find the right one for you. Now with 10% off until 28 June 2019.

      By: Sally Bromham
      17 June 2019