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High-speed nanomechanical probing of auditory mechano-sensitive cells

Stanford Neurosciences Institute, Joy Franco

Our ability to detect and interpret sounds relies on specialized sensory cells within the snail-shaped hearing organ of the inner ear—the cochlea. These hair cells sense physical movement and then convert that mechanical stimulus into a biological signal that we perceive as sound. These mechano-sensory cells perform this task within microseconds and can do so for sub-nanomechanical stimuli. Thus, studying these cells presents a unique challenge that will benefit from combining nanomechanical engineering with electrophysiology. Current progress in this field is limited by the lack of tools capable of resolving nanomechanical information in such short time periods. In my time at EPFL, under the mentorship of high-speed atomic force microscopy expert Georg Fanter, I will investigate methods of overcoming these challenges. The tools developed in partnership with EPFL will allow me to conduct in depth studies of how these mechano-sensory cells achieve such a remarkable task, and why this task succumbs to failure during hearing loss.   

 

Participants

Lead Researcher(s): 

Primary Advisor: Beth Pruitt (mechanical engineering) and co-adavisor  Anthony Ricci (otolaryngology)

EPFL exchange host:

Georg Fantner
Tenure Track Assistant Professor
Institute of Bioengineering
LBNI-Laboratory for Bio- and Nano-Instrumentation

Funding Type: 
EPFL-Stanford Exchange
Round: 
1
Award Year: 
2017