New Study shows possible
cure for Hereditary Deafness
July 31st, 2005
Scientists from the University of
Iowa and researchers from Okayama University in Japan have shown a
potential method to cure a type of
hereditary deafness by stopping the
gene that causes the hearing loss.
Richard Smith, M.D. research
Professor in Otolaryngology at University of Iowa said, "We gave a
genetically-deafened mouse interfering RNA that specifically prevents a
gene from being expressed that would otherwise cause deafness. By
preventing its expression, we prevented the deafness. Even though this
is in the early stages, it is really exciting because it points to other
options for people who have hearing loss other than
hearing aids or
The way that the hearing loss is
prevented is with a technique called
RNA interference (RNAi). Many of
the most common causes of genetic deafness will not be helped by this
method of blocking the gene causing the damage. The kind of genetic
hearing loss that possibly could be prevented would ones that have a
dominant negative genetic function.
The mice had a mutated gene that
causes deafness in humans put into the inner ear. The mice were
measured with a hearing test similar to newborn babies at hospitals.
The mice achieved a moderate hearing loss. The next step the hearing
loss gene was put into mice’s ears along with the interfering RNA, which
was designed to overpower the mutant gene. The results showed that the
treated mice were able to hear.
The way the RNAi was delivered to
the mice in this study would be easy to apply for therapy in humans. A
small piece of foam soaked up the RNA and was placed against one opening
of the mice’s inner ear. The membrane being slightly permeable was
enough to allow the RNA to enter the inner ear cells.
Future studies will be conducted on
mice before humans will be evaluated for this therapy. The researchers
will study to see if the RNAi treatment will work on a mouse that has
been deaf for an extended period of time.
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Best Syndication Staff Writer
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