A way to transfer genes into diseased tissue of the inner ear in the hope of restoring hearing has been discovered by researchers at the University of Virginia (UVa) Health System.
In the ear, the cochlea contains hair cells. These hair cells have hair-like projections that line the inner ear and convert sound into electrical signals. The electrical signals produced allow us to hear. People with hearing loss suffer from too few, damaged, or missing hair cells.
Dr. Jeffrey Holt, associate professor of neuroscience and otolaryngology at UVa, and his research team, including Dr. Bradley Kesser, an assistant professor of otolaryngology, targeted a gene known as KCNQ4, which causes genetic hearing loss in humans when mutated. They engineered a correct form of the gene and created a gene therapy delivery system that successfully transferred the KCNQ4 gene into human hair cells harvested from the inner ears of patients with hearing loss.
“Our results show that gene therapy reagents are effective in human inner ear tissue. Taken together with the results from another group of scientists who showed that similar gene therapy compounds can produce new hair cells and restore hearing function in guinea pigs suggest that the future of gene therapy in the human inner ear is sound,” Holt said.
Illustration: MicroSoft clipart.
The Post Chronicle (06/18/07)
Science Daily (06/18/07)
United Press International (06/18/07)
Medical News Today (06/19/07)