Gene therapy restores hearing in deaf mice, could help humans

Gene therapy could be the answer that many people have been looking for when it comes to hearing loss. Hearing loss impacts an incredibly large portion of our population, yet it’s something that remains relatively forgotten in the scientific community. While other senses have had medical breakthroughs, like vision impairment or loss, as well as some other ailments or deficiencies that impact other senses, hearing has remained out dated in terms of treatment.

Researchers have pinpointed at least 70 genes that can contribute to deafness when mutated, so scientists have now begun the daunting process of testing those genetic mutations, as well as altering some of those genes to determine the best course of treatment. While genetic modification is something that sounds difficult to some, it’s something that scientists have been doing with more success recently, and is truly a sign of where treatment is going.

The study tested mice, and found that mice, which were deaf, were ultimately found to regain their hearing when these genetic mutations were altered. Margaret Kenna of the Boston Children’s Hospital pointed out that, “Current therapies for profound hearing loss, like that caused by the recessive form of TMC1, include hearing aids, which often don’t work very well, and cochlear implants.”

Hearing Loss

She noted that children would be most profoundly impacted by this genetic study, which could potentially see reversal of deafness in cases where deafness starts at 10-15 years old. This is something that makes many wonder about the potential of pushing medical study into the genetic field, as genetic alteration becomes a more simplified method for taking on hearing loss and other illnesses.

This is a study that reveals the overall direction of medical science though. This is a prime example of how genetics can help future generations of people navigate the medical world better. Simpler and less expensive treatments, which could be executed through genetic altering, would be an impressive addition to the human experience.

Jeffrey Holt of Boston Children’s has similar hopes about this particular study. He said, “I can envision patients with deafness having their genome sequenced and a tailored, precision-medicine treatment injected into their ears to restore hearing.” This is the case, really, across the board, as the medical community soaks in yet another positive report from a genetic alteration study that shows just how powerful of a tool genetics can be in treatment.