Experimental and theoretical investigation of cochlear hair-cell mechanotransduction
Dr Andriy Kozlov
Imperial College London
Without their emotional meaning, speech and music are simply travelling waves of pressure. Vertebrates convert these waves into intelligible electrical signals using hair cells in the ear, but we have a poor understanding of how they do this. Each hair cell has a bundle of microvilli called stereocilia. It is technically challenging to apply appropriate mechanical forces to the stereocilia as they are sensitive to atomic-scale vibrations at thousands of cycles per second. Measuring their vibrations is also challenging.
We plan to build new instruments to move stereocilia with light using the same principle that causes a comet’s tail to bend away from the sun.
Our findings will shed light on fundamental aspects of the biophysics of hearing and the processes of transduction and amplification.