A team of neuroscience researchers has won a grant from PI to use piezo actuators and a three-axis piezo nanopositioning stage (Nanocube) to study sensory transduction and amplification in the inner ear.
Andrea Lelli, Eric A Stauffer and Jeffrey R Holt at the Department of Neuroscience, University of Virginia Medical School in the USA have won the $25,000 PI (Physik Instrumente) NanoInnovation Grant for a research proposal entitled A Fast Mechanical Nanostimulator to Study Sensory Transduction and Amplification in the Inner Ear.
Hair cells are mechano-electrical transducers located in the sensory portion of the inner ear. They transform high-frequency nanometric mechanical displacements into electrical signals that are transmitted to the brain. Many aspects of hair cell function remain unknown because biophysical studies of hair cell mechanotransduction have been limited by unreliable and slow methods for stimulus delivery.
However, Lelli, Stauffer and Holt will build a nanostimulator using PI piezo actuators and a three-axis piezo nanopositioning stage (Nanocube) that can reliably stimulate sensory hair cells at frequencies of up to 10kHz with motions that range from a couple of nanometers to a couple of microns.
Problems with hearing and balance are the most common sensory deficits worldwide. This work will therefore provide the foundation for understanding the normal physiology and the pathophysiolgy of the inner ear, which will then facilitate the design of rational strategies to treat inner ear dysfunction.
The $25,000 NanoInnovation Grant program was initiated to provide funding to North American researchers. Nanopositioning equipment is awarded to help the scientists reach their goals - developing innovative technologies, products or processes.