The Fight Against Hearing Loss Scores a Major Breakthrough

Researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute and King’s College London performed a large study of mouse mutants revealing that there is involvement of multiple genes in hearing loss. The new genes identified revealed the metabolic pathways together with the regulatory processes involved in hearing.

Hearing Loss

Hearing Loss

The study makes understanding the underlying biology of deafness easier. It also provides a major source of therapeutic targets to help with the restoration of hearing.

Case study

With age, progressive hearing loss is very common. It leads to issues such as:

  • An increase in social isolation.
  • Difficulty in understanding speech.
  • Depression.

It is inheritable but not much is known regarding molecular pathways that lead to hearing loss. This hampers development of treatment.

Solution

Researchers took a genetic approach to identify the new molecules that are involved in hearing loss. 1,211 new mouse mutants were created. They screened each mouse to determine how good their hearing was.

The screen identified 38 genes that were involved in the mice’s hearing loss whose involvement in hearing had never been suspected.

Researchers analysed human DNA to determine if any of the 38 genes were responsible for human adult-onset hearing loss. 11 of these genes were found to be associated in the UK’s population hearing ability. One gene called SPNS2 was found to be linked with deafness in children.

Some of the genes revealed molecular pathways that could be useful targets in the development of new therapies.

Dr. Chris Lelliot said that that was the first time a study of that scale had looked into the different types of hearing losses in mouse mutants. The study added more genes to follow up to the handful of genes that were linked to age-related hearing loss.

Researchers identified that loss of hearing is a varied disorder which could involve up to 1,000 genes.

According to Dr. Selina Pearson, the study gave huge insight into the complex biology involved in hearing loss. The study showed that there would not be a single solution that could stop all age related deafness. This put emphasis on the importance of studying mice to identify the genes involved in a complex process such as hearing.

Findings from the study suggested that there was a need for therapies to be directed at the common molecular pathways that are involved in deafness as opposed to individual genes.

Conclusion

According to Prof Karen Steel, a senior author on the Wellcome Sanger Institute and King’s College London, several of the mouse mutant lines were showing normal development of hearing. This was followed by deterioration. This suggested that the genes could be responsible for human age-related hearing loss. The next step would be to determine whether it is possible to influence the molecular pathways that could stop hearing loss from progressing.

References

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