Category: Featured

Nerve cells warn brain of damage to inner earNerve cells warn brain of damage to inner ear

Some nerve cells in the inner ear can signal tissue damage in a way similar to pain-sensing nerve cells in the body, according to new research from Johns Hopkins. If the finding, discovered in rats, is confirmed in humans, it may lead to new insights into hyperacusis, an increased sensitivity to loud noises that can lead to severe and long-lasting ear pain.

“We are still a long way from being able to treat hyperacusis,” says Paul Fuchs, Ph.D., professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery, neuroscience and biomedical engineering at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, “but our results suggest that cells called type II afferent neurons are similar to pain-sensing neurons in the rest of the body, so lessons about interventions elsewhere could apply to the ear, too.”

A summary of the research will be published online in the journalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences during the week of Nov. 9.

The new discovery came as a result of interest in why this small subset of afferent nerve cells — nerves that take information from the inner ear to the brain — are quite insensitive to sound. “If they aren’t very good at relaying sounds, what are they doing?” says Fuchs.

Fuchs and his team knew that these type II afferents connect to specialized sensory cells in the ear of mammals. These so-called outer hair cells amplify the sound waves that enter the inner ear, giving mammals very sensitive hearing over a wide range of frequencies. But, according to Fuchs, this specialization comes at a cost.

“Outer hair cells are the canaries in the coal mine for the inner ear, in that they’re the first cells to die due to loud noise, age or other factors,” says Fuchs. “Since they can’t regenerate, their death leads to permanent hearing loss.” So one possible role for type II afferents, he adds, would be to warn the brain of impending damage to outer hair cells.

It was known that nearby supporting cells respond to outer hair cell damage by increasing their inner calcium levels and releasing the chemical messenger ATP. Fuchs’ team knew that type II afferent neurons can respond to ATP, so they damaged outer hair cells while monitoring type II neurons in surgically removed inner ear tissue. Indeed, outer hair cell rupture caused robust excitation of type II neurons.

Fuchs says that the ATP released by the supporting cells is probably what gets the neurons to fire, and the supporting cells might release ATP in response to ATP that leaks out of the ruptured outer hair cells. But he noted that “outer hair cells don’t have to rupture to release ATP. Progressive damage caused by loud noises or other stress is enough to increase ATP levels in the fluid of the inner ear.”

Over evolutionary time, such a mechanism could have evolved to help mammals avoid further damage to their hearing. Such effects might depend on heightened sensitivity of the type II neurons after trauma, akin to the heightened sensitivity of pain-sensing nerves in damaged skin. Hypersensitivity to loud sound (hyperacusis) is a paradoxical consequence of hearing loss in many people. Everyday noises such as slamming doors, clanking dishes and barking dogs can become irritating and even painful.

The good news, Fuchs says, is that the analogies with pain elsewhere in the body provide guidance for future studies. For example, a compound that suppresses pain-sensing nerve cells elsewhere, also prevented type II afferent neurons from firing in response to outer hair cell death. At present, Fuchs cautions, this is a restricted experimental result. But, it provides a “proof of concept” for treating pain associated with inner ear damage. And the Fuchs laboratory plans to explore this question in their ongoing research.

This medical research study,”Nerve cells warn brain of damage to inner ear” was recently published on Johns Hopkins Medicine

Featured Science

Man Creates Homemade Video Game to Propose to GirlfriendMan Creates Homemade Video Game to Propose to Girlfriend

One video game enthusiast took his relationship to the next level with a video game proposal that is now going viral.

Austin Piech of Covington, Ky., proposed to his girlfriend Lauren Woodrick in May through a custom-made video game, and he got the whole thing on camera.

Piech’s original plan was to hire a mariachi band, which has a special meaning to Piech.

“My grandfather, Rodolfo Chapa, had proposed to my grandmother, Lydia Chapa (Muñoz), by having a group of mariachis sing the song ‘Nosotros’ to her,” Piech told media.

“When I couldn’t find any mariachis, I decided to build something I knew [Lauren] would find special,” Piech added.

Piech spent weeks creating the Mario inspired video game and told media that his video game project wasn’t suspicious at all to Woodrick.

“When I told her I was building a homebrew game, she didn’t question it,” said Piech.

Piech even filmed Woodrick for the game, explaining that he was filming her as a test subject for his market research.

The day of the proposal, Piech asked Woodrick to test out the video game, and Woodrick happily agreed.

To Woodrick’s surprise, the video game was actually a virtual tour of the couple’s real-life journey together, and Lolo (Woodrick’s nickname) was the game’s protagonist.

The levels in the video game represented significant memories and milestones that the couple had shared together, including levels that portrayed the couple’s first date, the first time Woodrick met Piech’s family, and the first time the couple traveled together.

In the video Piech panned the camera from Woodrick playing the video game to the ring box, which was secretly tucked away right behind the laptop.

The screen before the final level read, “If you couldn’t tell by this game, I’m a mediocre programmer, and a horrible artist, but I’d love to be your player 2.”

Woodrick’s avatar then passed by a virtual mariachi band that was playing the “Nosotros” tune that Piech wanted to incorporate in his original proposal plan.

Lolo came face-to-face with Piech’s video-game avatar at the very end of the game. As the screen faded to black, a text appeared which read, “It’s dangerous to go alone, take this!”

Piech took out the hidden ring and proposed to Woodrick, who immediately said “Yes!” through tears and excited laughter.

“My eyes had gotten mistier as I progressed through the game and revisited the wonderful memories we had together, but I properly cracked once I had made it to the end where Pixel Austin was waiting and I then knew exactly what was coming,” said Woodrick.

Featured Inspire

Paralyzed Man Dances With Wife to Wedding SongParalyzed Man Dances With Wife to Wedding Song

The wife of a Florida man who was paralyzed from the neck down in a near-fatal car crash said it was pure “magic” when she was able to dance with him to their wedding song this month. That was the first time her husband was able to stand in six years.

“For him to be able to regain this much movement in such a short amount of time, there’s no stopping him at this point,” Jackson’s wife, Lauren, told media. Lauren Jackson, also 26, says she was texting her sister on her phone while her husband, Joel, was at a physical therapy appointment on Oct. 1, when she looked up and saw Joel standing.

“I was like, ‘Oh, we are doing that today,’” Lauren told reporters, describing her shock. Joel suffered a C-1 injury, usually a deadly injury, when he was a passenger in a car that crashed in 2009.

The couple, who have known each other since they were 14, dated very briefly but broke up when they were still teenagers. The two were reunited after Lauren heard about Joel’s near fatal injuries and rushed to the bedside of her ex-boyfriend.

Lauren said she stayed by his side during his recovery, and the pair were married in 2013. At their wedding, held in a barn and attended by 250 guests, Lauren sat on her husband’s lap for their wedding dance to Edwin McCain’s “I’ll Be.”

Joel spent 87 days in the hospital after the crash and had not made much progress, according to his wife, before she moved him to Florida and started taking him in July to twice-weekly therapy sessions at the Brooks Rehabilitation Neuro Recovery Center in Jacksonville, Fla. It was there that Joel, who communicates via computer and facial expressions, began to make enough progress that his physical therapist, Staci Balkan, had him stand up using Zero-G technology, which allows Joel to use only the amount of body weight he can handle.

“You never know how much paralyzed patients can tolerate with being upright but he’s tolerating it very well,” Balkan told media. “When we stood for the first time, Lauren mentioned they never had their first dance, so I said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

Lauren told the center’s employees that their wedding song had been “I’ll Be” and a few moments later, the song began playing over the loudspeakers. With a cell phone camera rolling, the Jacksons slow danced to their wedding song, two years after they said “I do.”

You can see below The YouTube video of the couple dancing. Since the dance earlier this month, Joel Jackson, 26, has taken steps using a walker and continues to make significant progress, according to his wife, who shared a new video of Jackson walking with media.

“This is why we do what we do, so we can provide patients with things they maybe never felt possible,” Balkan said. “It was a beautiful moment.”

Jackson says her husband has told her he felt “euphoric” in the moment, and said afterwards, “I knew I had a purpose.”

“If there is such thing as magic, that was magic,” Jackson said. “I’ve been told, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room but I don’t even know who was in the room because besides him and me and the therapist, no one else was in the room to me in that moment.”

Lauren, an artist and wedding photographer/planner, said the moment gave new life to Joel.

“When he’s able to stand and walk, he says he feels young again,” she said. “For him to stand again, it made him feel invincible again.”


Behind The Numbers: Growth In The Internet Of ThingsBehind The Numbers: Growth In The Internet Of Things


The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects or “things” embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity, which enables these objects to collect and exchange data.  The Internet of Things allows objects to be sensed and controlled remotely across existing network infrastructure, creating opportunities for more direct integration between the physical world and computer-based systems, and resulting in improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit. Each thing is uniquely identifiable through its embedded computing system but is able to interoperate within the existing Internet infrastructure.

With a billion-plus connected smart devices and machines worldwide, the Internet of Things (IoT) provides vast amounts of actionable data in near real time.

Organizations of all kinds and across all industries use this information to create new operating models, bring products to market faster, and develop more efficient business processes.

The Internet isn’t merely developing, it’s exploding, and the numbers prove it. Take a look at our graphic below — it shows the advancing surge of connected devices using the Internet.

Today, there are more connected devices than there are human beings on the planet. This expansion isn’t just from cell phones, tablets and computers – it’s thanks to toothbrushes, stovetops and millions of other devices that now have IP addresses. Estimates show that there will be over 50 billion connected devices by 2020.


Fast, ubiquitous Wi-Fi and increasing home broadband speeds will drive the Internet of Things and the ever-expanding web.

Featured Technology

See Touchy Reunion of Marines with Their War Dogs Years ApartSee Touchy Reunion of Marines with Their War Dogs Years Apart

Dogs are a source of emotional and spiritual support for the Marines. After being apart and away from their dogs for many years, US Marines have now had a chance to reunite with them. These dogs are highly trained and are explosives-detecting dogs who were trained by K2 Solutions, Inc in North Carolina. These dogs served the US military and Marines greatly and helped them find explosives in the battlegrounds of Afghanistan and Iraq, later on with the growth in technology the services of these dogs were no longer required therefore they were taken away from the Marines and returned to K2 solutions, Inc.

In an interview with media, the CEO of K2 Solutions Lane Kellsen also said that after the dogs were no longer required, the US allowed K2 solutions to offer the last 12 dogs to their original Marine handlers for adoption.

Sgt. Mark Slocum was also present at the interview and said that he became very excited when he got the call from K2 Solutions two weeks ago. Sgt. Slocum has now officially adopted his dog name “Tug”, he is now a 7 year- old Labrador.

Sgt. Slocum saw Tug last time in 2011, when he was sent to Afghanistan Tug used to stay by his side and go and search buildings and cars to search for any dangers and make sure that everything was safe.  He also said that Tug had saved their lives a couple of times, once Tug and Slocum were searching of IEDs and Tug found someone. When he continued to stiff he indicated that they were all homemade explosives. Here the platoon was forced to give up that route because there were too many explosives and because of Tug many Injuries were prevented.

Tug provided a healthy companionship, as there were no computers or phones that’s why Tug proved to be an important member of the platoon. Slocum added that after being adopted, Tug would no longer be a war dog and would have to learn to live like a pet and do normal things that an indoor dog would do. Other than Sgt. Mark Slocum, Sgt. Chris Jaramillo was also awarded his war dog named Shooter for adoption on the same day as Sgt. Slocum.