Cure For Noise-Induced Deafness? Studies In Mice Say Yes!

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“Scientists have restored the hearing of mice partly deafened by noise, using advanced tools to boost the production of a key protein in their ears.”

“Scientists have restored the hearing of mice partly deafened by noise, using advanced tools to boost the production of a key protein in their ears.”

This microscope image of tissue from deep inside a normal mouse ear shows how ribbon synapses (red) form the connections between the hair cells of the inner ear (blue) and the tips of nerve cells (green) that connect to the brain.

As a blogger, I am always keeping an eye out for interesting information that I can use to inspire visually edible content concerning hearing loss and hearing rehabilitation. Today, I came across this article in ScienceDaily based on a study that the University of Michigan conducted on curing deafness in mice (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141020212308.htm) and found myself quite excited to share this information.  A word of caution… I am NOT a scientist, which means that the following information is in “lay-men” terms.  Please bear with me.

Scientists have discovered a protein, called NT3, that is responsible for maintaining communication between what we hear and how that information is shared with our brain. Those messages happen through a function called ribbon synapses. Essentially, ribbon synapses are responsible for that key moment when the message goes from a chemical signal to an electrical impulse. When we sustain hearing loss, either through noise exposure or aging, those synapses can no longer rapidly communicate sound definition to the brain. Scientists theorized that the inner ear cell is supported by NT3 and experimented with genetically modifying the cells in the inner ear by “turning on” the genes responsible for that protein production. They ran a series of tests on mice, turning on and off those genes in the presence of noise exposure, and found that the mice with the extra NT3 regained their hearing, and long-term, were hearing much better than the mice that didn’t receive the extra protein. So what does this all mean?

“It has become apparent that hearing loss due to damaged ribbon synapses is a very common and challenging problem, whether it’s due to noise or normal aging,” says Gabriel Corfas, Ph.D., who led the team and directs the U-M institute. “We began this work 15 years ago to answer very basic questions about the inner ear, and now we have been able to restore hearing after partial deafening with noise, a common problem for people. It’s very exciting.”

The next step is to begin human trials. There will be two aspects to the testing. One is to discover/create/use drugs capable of simulating NT3. The other step is to use gene therapy, as they did with the mice, to see if the human ear can support, and respond to, the protein.

The next step is to begin human trials.  There will be two aspects to the testing.  One is to discover/create/use drugs capable of simulating NT3.  The other step is to use gene therapy, as they did with the mice, to see if the human ear can support, and respond to, the protein.
In a nut-shell, scientists may have found a cure for deafness!  Though, in the future this may put my family out of business, I can honestly say, we wouldn’t be in business for the right reason if we weren’t excited to think of a world in which deafness doesn’t exist!http://www.sagehearingsolutions.com
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