Shedding Light on the Structural Details of Inner Ear Hair Cells

March, 2012 — Anna Lysakowski, PhD, a member of the AHRF Research Committee and a 2012 AHRF grant recipient, is focusing on a structure found in inner ear hair cells called the striated organelle. Lysakowski, at the University of Illinois, Chicago, has already published a paper this year describing the striated organelle in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). She will use the AHRF grant to gather more data on this structure so that she can apply for larger grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue her research.

The striated organelle is a structural, filament-like component of cochlear and vestibular hair cells. It is located directly underneath the stereocilia, the “hair part” of hair cells. Because this structure may affect the tension on the “hairs” and may also provide a means for the brain to control this tension, Lysakowski believes the striated organelle plays an important role in modulating how they respond to sound and head motion.

Lysakowski will study the structure of the striated organelle furtherusing high-voltage electron microscopy and will use mass spectrometry to determine its protein composition. She will also look at how hair cells behave when the striated organelle is disrupted.