Continuum Model for Ion Gating in Cochlear Hair Cells

[+] Author and Article Information
Charles R. Steele

Division of Mechanics and Computation, Stanford University, Stanford CA 94305

Appl. Mech. Rev 50(11S), S210-S215 (Nov 01, 1997) doi:10.1115/1.3101838 History: Online April 20, 2009


The details of ion flow in cells are important for the macro mechanical response of sensory organs, as in the inner ear of vertebrates. A continuum model for the flow of an ionized fluid through a pore in an elastic wall is considered. With this, the electro-mechanical behavior is readily computed. An interesting result is that two equilibria exist for the flow through a pore with a soft elastic entrance region. At one equilibrium point, the entrance opening is more restricted and the corresponding ion flow rate is much lower. Thus it appears that the tendency of ion channels to pop from an open to a closed state may be a consequence of basic fluid-elastic interaction. With the simple continuum model, various effects can be explored. One is the presence of an external spring force, corresponding to the force of the tip fiber between stereocilia. Another is the effect of an adjacent membrane and pore. The input physical parameters are reasonable and the results for flow rate are consistent with experimental measurements.

Copyright © 1997 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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