Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, have reported the identification of a gene that plays an important role in the development of cells essential to hearing. Writing in the journal Science, the researchers describe how they found that mice without the Math1 gene never developed hair-cell bundles. The Math1 gene gives a signal that causes certain ear cells to mature into hair cells in the inner ear.
According to lead researcher Dr Huda Y. Zoghbi, professor of molecular and human genetics, neuroscience and neurology, the findings have implications for the millions of people who lose hair cells with ageing, toxicity and trauma, such as persistent loud noise at a rock concert. If further research corroborates these findings, it may one day be possible to treat some forms of hearing loss with gene therapy.
'The potential clinical applications of such studies cannot be overlooked, because loss of hair through disease, trauma, and aging is a common cause of deafness and vestibular dysfunction,' the researchers conclude.
Sources and References
An essential gene for the generation of inner ear hair cells
Gene discovery may lead to hearing loss treatments