Researchers have restored hearing in mice with a genetic form of deafness, using gene therapy, according to Boston’s Children’s Hospital. Scientists hope to transfer their findings to eventually reverse hearing loss in humans
“Gene therapy is the transplantation of normal genes into cells in place of missing or defective ones in order to correct genetic disorders,” explains the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).
“Gene therapy as it relates to hearing loss focuses on the establishment of the three genes that cause hearing loss. Stem cell gene therapy treatments might supplement those three genes.” ASHA continues, “Gene therapy has shown positive results in field testing. Columbia University Medical Center conducted a study using mice with genetic mutations to their hearing. Development of cells and implementation of genetically developed cells in the mice resulted in the regeneration of a significant amount of hair cells (in the ear).
“Mice share a similar genetic makeup with humans, so many audiologists, and scientists predict that this might be the breakthrough genetic science needs to boost technology for preventing hearing loss,” ASHA reports. “Our sense of hearing relies upon many factors within the ear, but none so much as the cochlear hair cells. Ears need inner and outer hair cells to create the ‘electromotile’ responses needed to collect information from incoming sound to enable us to hear.
“Over time, age and noise damage cause the functioning of the outer hair cells to deteriorate, making it more difficult to hear certain sounds in certain situations.” ASHA adds, “Sounds, especially loud ones, produce pressure waves on the inner ear hair cells. With the development of gene therapy, many individuals who lose hearing due to the damage or loss of hair cells might regain some hair cell functioning and reduce their hearing loss.”