Recent research has revealed the function of the endolymphatic sac in the inner ear. This structure has been hard to study since it is small and surrounded by dense bone. But Ian Swinburne, a Harvard Medical School research fellow, made the discovery while looking at time lapse microscopic images of the inner ear of the zebra fish. Ian, with other researchers, found the sac pulsates while inflating and deflating. After further study, they determined that this pulsating acts like a pressure relief valve to regulate fluid pressure in the inner ear. It is hoped that their results may one day help study and treat disorders of the inner ear such as vertigo, hearing loss, and ringing in the ears.

Key Takeaways:

  • Scientists weren’t sure how a certain mechanism in the inner ear in a zebra fish worked
  • Through experimentation and collaboration they were able to discover what was making the mechanism work
  • They collaborated with yet another team to discover how it worked in more detail

“Through dye injection experiments, they discovered that in lmx1bb mutants, inner ear fluid was not flowing out of the endolymphatic sac as it should, and the buildup of fluid caused the structure to balloon.”

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