In a groundbreaking study, hearing and balance were restored to genetically deaf mice in a study done at Boston Children’s Hospital. The therapy restored hearing to detect sounds as soft as a whisper.
Gene therapy is where corrected versions of therapeutic DNA is delivered into the genomes of cells. Viruses are altered in a lab to serve as a vector to carry the corrected therapeutic DNA into cells.
The study introduced a corrected version to the inner ear of mice shortly after birth. The introduction resulted in proper inner and outer hair cell formation in the cochlea producing normal harmonin. These hair cells responded appropriately to sound waves enabling hearing.
Researchers noted that the study was truly groundbreaking and that for the first time by delivering correct gene sequences to sensory cells in the ear, hearing and balance restoration to near normal was achieved.
The research noted that treatment was most effective immediately after birth and that even a slight delay (10-12 days post birth) resulted in no improvement.
The scientists are hopeful that with further research and study, the information may one day lead to treatments that restore hearing.
For more information, see Gene therapy restores hearing in deaf mice…down to a whisper.As an attorney who helps the disabled, I am excited to learn of this promising therapy. I will be interested to see if this or similar therapies can help those without genetic disorders, or at a later point in life. This science is truly fascinating to me.