Researchers may have identified the protein that helps the delicate hair cells of the cochlea, our spiral-shaped inner ear cavity, convert signals from sound waves into electrical signals sent to our brains, The Scientist reports. Proteins called TMC1s create a valve in our inner ear cells, opening up in the presence of sound waves to let charged particles flow, setting off a cascade of signaling to the brain, the researchers report this week in Neuron. The discovery marks a breakthrough in a 40-year quest during which several biological candidates were proposed, only to be disproved shortly thereafter. The team hopes their new findings can be used to develop new treatments for hearing loss.
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