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PLoS One. 2011 Mar 31;6(3):e18161. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0018161.

Simulation of the response of the inner hair cell stereocilia bundle to an acoustical stimulus.

Author information

1
Department of Mechanical Engineering, Howard University, Washington, DC, United States of America.

Abstract

Mammalian hearing relies on a cochlear hydrodynamic sensor embodied in the inner hair cell stereocilia bundle. It is presumed that acoustical stimuli induce a fluid shear-driven motion between the tectorial membrane and the reticular lamina to deflect the bundle. It is hypothesized that ion channels are opened by molecular gates that sense tension in tip-links, which connect adjacent stepped rows of stereocilia. Yet almost nothing is known about how the fluid and bundle interact. Here we show using our microfluidics model how each row of stereocilia and their associated tip links and gates move in response to an acoustical input that induces an orbital motion of the reticular lamina. The model confirms the crucial role of the positioning of the tectorial membrane in hearing, and explains how this membrane amplifies and synchronizes the timing of peak tension in the tip links. Both stereocilia rotation and length change are needed for synchronization of peak tip link tension. Stereocilia length change occurs in response to accelerations perpendicular to the oscillatory fluid shear flow. Simulations indicate that nanovortices form between rows to facilitate diffusion of ions into channels, showing how nature has devised a way to solve the diffusive mixing problem that persists in engineered microfluidic devices.

PMID:
21483823
PMCID:
PMC3069064
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0018161
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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