Gene Therapy Could Restore Hearing To The Deaf

A remarkable gene therapy treatment has been shown to force the growth of new hair cells. It is the deterioration of these cells with age (or abuse) that cause most hearing loss.


(Cell growth of control vs. Atoh1 therapy)

The technique was demonstrated in the journal Nature by an American team lead by Dr John Brigande of the Oregon Hearing Research Centre, Portland.

People, like all mammals, are not able to regenerate hair cells when they are damaged or lost. Dr Brigande and colleagues show in Nature that by implanting a gene that regulates hair cell growth, Atoh1, into the mouse inner ear while the mouse is still in the womb, new hair cells are made.

As for human tests, Dr Brigande says that the work is at too early a stage to say when they can start: "There is no present plan for tests in humans. The next step is to restore hearing in a deaf mouse.

"Only after this can we start experiments that will teach us if the approach might work in humans. So there is an enormous amount of work to do.

"The exciting news for those of us with hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) is that we now have hope of having our hearing restored someday."

(Cure for deafness within reach?)

Fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation may recall one particular episode - Loud as a Whisper. An ambassador is deaf; he has three different people translate for him, depending on the content and purpose of the communication (intellect, passion, harmony).


(Riva and the choir)

From Cure for deafness now within reach; thanks to Moira for another great story and sfnal reference.

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