Listen Up: Gene Therapy Brings Hearing to Deaf Mice, Hope for Humans

Listen Up: Gene Therapy Brings Hearing to Deaf Mice, Hope for Humans

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ear CC Simon James

You heard right: two new studies show serious promise in the use of gene therapy to prevent deafness in infants and restore hearing in older people.

The first experiment, conducted in both the U.S. and Switzerland, was carried out by researchers replacing faulty hearing genes in mice and surprising them with loud noises. Their reactions—jumping when they were surprised—demonstrated that their hearing had been restored. Those findings were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.Hearing-aids-screenshot-StarkeyFoundation-video

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Currently, pharmaceutical company Novartis is experimenting with a new drug containing a gene called Atoh1 that they believe will improve hearing lost through age or disease or listening to too much loud music over a lifetime.

Their experiment focused on a gene that causes hair cells in the inner ear — essential to the sense of hearing — to grow, restoring the ability to hear.

Using gene therapy to treat hereditary hearing loss may still be a long way off, with clinical trials not expected for another ten years, but the Novartis study is more advanced. The Swiss company’s early trial is underway with results expected in 2017.

(READ more at NBC) — Photo: Simon James, CC   — Story Tip: carolyn

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