May 28, 2012
Ear Hair Cells Grown In Young Mice With Gene Therapy

This gene therapy only works on very young mice and more steps are needed to make it useful for reversing hearing loss in the aged.

Researchers at Emory University School of Medicine have shown that introducing a gene called Atoh1 into the cochleae of young mice can induce the formation of extra sensory hair cells.

I want this for a very important non-aged purpose: I want to turn up the volume on music much higher than I let myself listen to now. The ability to repair damage will enable us to get damaged in ways we (or at least the more prudent among us) avoid getting damaged today. We might even be able to identify genetic variants that make more robust hair cells. Then we could use gene therapy or cell therapy to grow cilia hair cells that can handle higher volume.

Their results show the potential of a gene therapy approach, but also demonstrate its current limitations. The extra hair cells produce electrical signals like normal hair cells and connect with neurons. However, after the mice are two weeks old, which is before puberty, inducing Atoh1 has little effect. This suggests that an analogous treatment in adult humans would also not be effective by itself.

Likely at some point in development changes happen to the genome (e.g. DNA methylation) that block gene activity so that Atoh1 can no longer initiate hearing hair cell growth. To grow replacement hearing hair will require turning on more genes than Atoh1 by itself can activate. Once scientists figure out how to turn on all the genes needed to grow replacement they'll still need techniques to safely deliver gene therapy. Or perhaps the repair will get done using cell therapy where cells are primed to do repair and then injected into the inner ear.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2012 May 28 12:30 PM  Rejuvenation Hearing


Comments
NukemHill said at May 29, 2012 11:03 AM:

I'm keen on this for resolving my tinnitus.

Da55id said at May 29, 2012 11:46 AM:

@NukemHill,

My tinnitus is almost eliminated by use of Lyric deep in-ear-canal hearing aids. My guess is that tinnitus (or at least the kind I have) is a form of phantom limb induced pseudosensing - where the missing "limb" is those hair cells most responsible for detecting high frequency sound. In this hypothesized model, my brain injects the false sounds in similar fashion to injection of false pain into a missing limb. When the hearing aids are active, I do not hear the high pitched continuous whistling unless I really pay strict and close attention to deliberately seeking to detect it. When the batteries become depleted, or switch them fully off, the whistling comes back with a vengeance.

Paul said at May 29, 2012 2:19 PM:

"can induce the formation of extra sensory hair cells."

Meaning sensory hair cells that are extra. I was hoping for ESP hair.

ZZMike said at May 29, 2012 3:30 PM:

"I want to turn up the volume on music much higher than I let myself listen to now."

Earphones. Then later in life, hearing aids.

My wife has moderate tinnitus - she finds that wearing earphones and having the radio on helps. I'll look into the Lyric hearing aids.

Brett Bellmore said at May 30, 2012 4:19 AM:

Speaking as somebody who has actually fled concerts due to the noise level, (And consequently still has pretty good hearing.) I'm curious about the appeal of having your teeth buzz against one another. Seriously, what is it?

Maybe it's feeling the music in your torso, rather than just hearing it? Maybe you could get the same thing strapping a sub-woofer to your chest, without the hearing damage...

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