Auditory Nerves & Cartilage | SciByte 128

Auditory Nerves & Cartilage | SciByte 128

Hello everyone and welcome back to SciByte!

We take a look at regrowing auditory nerves, growing cartilage, a cold stellar neighbor, viewer feedback on Opportunity rover, Curiosity news, and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

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Show Notes:

Gene Therapy with Cochlear Implants

  • Researchers have for the first time used electrical pulses delivered from a cochlear implant to deliver gene therapy, thereby successfully regrowing auditory nerves
  • \”People with cochlear implants do well with understanding speech, but their perception of pitch can be poor, so they often miss out on the joy of music,\” | UNSW Professor Gary Housley
  • **Cochlear Implants **
  • The work centres on regenerating surviving nerves after age-related or environmental hearing loss, using existing cochlear technology
  • The cochlear implants are \”surprisingly efficient\” at localised gene therapy in the animal model, when a few electric pulses are administered during the implant procedure.
  • It has long been established that the auditory nerve endings regenerate if neurotrophins – a naturally occurring family of proteins crucial for the development, function and survival of neurons – are delivered to the auditory portion of the inner ear, the cochlea.
  • Until now, research has stalled because safe, localised delivery of the neurotrophins can\’t be achieved using drug delivery, nor by viral-based gene therapy
  • New Research
  • Researchers have developed a way of using electrical pulses delivered from the cochlear implant to deliver the DNA to the cells close to the array of implanted electrodes.
  • These cells then produce neurotrophins the neurotrophin production dropped away after a couple of months which
  • Ultimately the changes in the hearing nerve may be maintained by the ongoing neural activity generated by the cochlear implant.
  • \”We think it\’s possible that in the future this gene delivery would only add a few minutes to the implant procedure\” | Jeremy Pinyon, PhD is based on this work
  • \”The surgeon who installs the device would inject the DNA solution into the cochlea and then fire electrical impulses to trigger the DNA transfer once the implant is inserted.\” | Jeremy Pinyon, PhD is based on this work
  • The Future
  • Integration of this technology into other \’bionic\’ devices such as electrode arrays used in deep brain stimulation, the treatment of Parkinson\’s disease and depression, for example) could also afford opportunities for safe, directed gene therapy of complex neurological disorders
  • \”Gene therapy has been suggested as a treatment concept even for devastating neurological conditions and our technology provides a novel platform for safe and efficient gene transfer into tissues as delicate as the brain.\” | Professor Matthias Klugmann
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube | Bionic ear delivers DNA to regrow auditory nerve cells | UNSWTV
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Hearing quality restored with bionic ear technology used for gene therapy |


Creating Cartilage

  • The first example of living human cartilage grown on a laboratory chip has been created by scientists
  • The researchers ultimately aim to use their innovative 3-D printing approach to create replacement cartilage
  • Who it Could Help
  • Artificial cartilage built using a patient\’s own stem cells could offer enormous therapeutic potential for patients with osteoarthritis or joint injuries
  • Osteoarthritis is marked by a gradual disintegration of cartilage, a flexible tissue that provides padding where bones come together in a joint and is one of the leading causes of physical disability in the United States
  • Some treatments can help relieve arthritis symptoms, there is no cure. Many patients with severe arthritis ultimately require a joint replacement
  • Replacement cartilage could also be a game-changer for people with debilitating joint injuries, such as soldiers with battlefield injuries
  • The Process
  • Creating artificial cartilage requires three main elements: stem cells, biological factors to make the cells grow into cartilage, and a scaffold to give the tissue its shape
  • This 3-D printing approach achieves all three by extruding thin layers of stem cells embedded in a solution that retains its shape and provides growth factors
  • Other researchers have experimented with 3-D printing approaches for cartilage,
  • This method represents a significant step forward because it uses visible light, while others have required UV light, which can be harmful to living cells.
  • In another significant step this process uses the 3-D printing method to produce the first \”tissue-on-a-chip\” replica of the bone-cartilage interface
  • Housing 96 blocks of living human tissue 4 millimeters across by 8 millimeters deep, the chip could serve as a test-bed for researchers to learn about how osteoarthritis develops and develop new drugs
  • The Future
  • As a next step, the team is working to combine their 3-D printing method with a nanofiber spinning technique they developed previously
  • They hope combining the two methods will provide a more robust scaffold and allow them to create artificial cartilage that even more closely resembles natural cartilage
  • The ultimate vision is to give doctors a tool they can thread through a catheter to print new cartilage right where it\’s needed in the patient\’s body
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Cartilage, made to order: Living human cartilage grown on lab chip — ScienceDaily |


A Cold New Stellar Neighbor


Opportunity Rover Solar Panel Pictures


  • First Ever Asteroid Images from Mars
  • The Curiosity rover has captured the first images of asteroids even taken by a Human probe from the surface of the Red Planet during night sky imaging.
  • “This imaging was part of an experiment checking the opacity of the atmosphere at night in Curiosity’s location on Mars, where water-ice clouds and hazes develop during this season,” | Camera team member Mark Lemmon
  • “The two Martian moons were the main targets that night, but we chose a time when one of the moons was near Ceres and Vesta in the sky.” | Camera team member Mark Lemmon
  • The two asteroids, Ceres and Vesta, were snapped by Curiosity’s high resolution Mastcam camera on Sunday, April 20, 2014
  • Ceres and Vesta appear as streaks since the Mastcam image was taken as a 12 second time exposure.
  • Ceres, the largest asteroid, is about 590 miles (950 kilometers) in diameter. Vesta is the third-largest object in the main belt and measures about 350 miles (563 kilometers) wide.
  • The tinier of Mars’ moons, Deimos, was also caught in that same image.
  • Mars largest moon Phobos as well as Jupiter and Saturn were also visible that same Martian evening, although in a different direction
  • The two asteroids and three stars would be visible to someone of normal eyesight standing on Mars.
  • Analysing a Possible Drilling Location
  • The team operating NASA\’s Curiosity Mars rover is telling the rover to use several tools this weekend to inspect a sandstone slab being evaluated as a possible drilling target
  • If this target meets criteria set by engineers and scientists, it could become the mission\’s third drilled rock, and the first that is not mudstone
  • The planned inspection, designed to aid a decision on whether to drill includes observations with the camera and X-ray spectrometer at the end of the rover\’s arm, use of a brush to remove dust from a patch on the rock, and readings of composition at various points on the rock with an instrument that fires laser shots from the rover\’s mast.
  • The first two Martian rocks drilled and analyzed this way were mudstone slabs neighboring each other in Yellowknife Bay, about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) northeast of the rover\’s current location
  • Those two rocks yielded evidence of an ancient lakebed environment with key chemical elements and a chemical energy source that provided conditions billions of years ago favorable for microbial life.
  • Scientists hope to learn more about the wet process that turned sand deposits into sandstone here and how the composition of the fluids that bound the grains together
  • Understanding why some sandstones in the area are harder than others also could help explain major shapes of the landscape where Curiosity is working inside Gale Crater.
  • Erosion-resistant sandstone forms a capping layer of mesas and buttes. It could even hold hints about why Gale Crater has a large layered mountain, Mount Sharp, at its center.
  • Multimedia
  • Image Galleries at JPL and Curiosity Mulimedia
  • Social Media
  • Curiosity Rover @MarsCuriosity
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Curiosity Captures First Ever Asteroid Images from Mars Surface |
  • Drill Here? NASA\’s Curiosity Mars Rover Inspects Site – Mars Science Laboratory |


Looking back

  • May 2, 1775 : 239 years ago : Gulf Stream : Benjamin Franklin completed the first scientific study of the Gulf Stream. His observations began in 1769 when as deputy postmaster of the British Colonies he found ships took two weeks longer to bring mail from England than was required in the opposite direction. Thus, Franklin became the first to chart the Gulf Stream
  • YouTube | The Gulf Stream & Climate Change | Kurzgesagt

Looking up this week

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