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Hearing Loss Prevention and Gene Therapy

You may have heard that your genes can predispose you to different kinds of hearing loss, but did you also know that there are types of gene therapy that can help protect your ears? Learn more about hearing loss and gene therapy in this latest Audicus blog!

Hereditary Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is normally caused by exposure to loud noises for extended periods of time, but a person’s DNA can leave her more or less susceptible to sustaining permanent hearing damage. More than half of early onset hearing loss cases can be attributed to a person’s family background, with sensorineural and conductive hearing loss normally having a hereditary component.

Although our genetic makeup is pretty much written in stone, there are therapeutic methods to help counteract genetic defects that may be passed on within a family.

Hearing Loss and Gene Regulation

A new study from the Yale School of Medicine has discovered that by controlling the level of a certain enzyme called AMP Kinase found in cells, one could control the severity of hearing loss in mice. This discovery supports the idea that can gene therapy can delay or even prevent hearing loss in people.

AMP Kinase, or AMPK, is an enzyme that can be found in specific structures inside a cell called mitochondria. AMPK can negatively impact hearing loss when it interacts with molecules given off by deformed mitochondria. This form of hearing loss is passed on maternally, as we inherit our mitochondria from our mothers, and can worsen with time.

By deactivating one of the AMPK genes responsible for creating the AMPK protein, it is possible to prevent further hearing loss from occurring. Scientists found that AMPK-deficient mice with mitochondrial defects could hear just as well as mice that had no defects whatsoever.

This finding is very promising in terms of future therapy for people with hearing loss, and for individuals who are currently confronted with hearing loss there are a broad variety of hearing aid devices that Audicus offers.

Hearing Loss and Gene Therapy

Gene therapy can be used in a wide variety of ways to help counteract hearing loss. In a different study, researchers from the University of South Wales, Australia found that electrical pulses could be used to increase the production of neutrophins. Neutrophins are proteins involved in the development of neurons and can allow people to decipher a greater range of auditory tones.

Animal Models and Hearing Aid Technology

It isn’t uncommon to use different animal models when trying to devise solutions for hearing loss issues. A recent study by Dr. James Liao from the University of Florida in St. Augustine found zebrafish and trout can navigate rapidly changing water streams because they possess what is called a lateral line system. This system includes sensory hairs that are very similar to the hair cells found in human ears.

Liao hopes to model future innovations after this lateral line system in a process called biomimetic design, where new forms of technology are modeled after structures found in nature.

Sources: The Hearing Review, American Heart Association


By: Aaron Rodriques

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