Gene therapy offers hope to reverse deafness in children

It’s astonishing how a simple error in the genetic makeup could lead to a dreadful loss in the body. Defect in the hearing power of many children is a mere consequence of such mutations. According to the research from medical school and Boston Children’s Hospital, a gene known as TMC1 is one of the 70 different genes which if underwent mutation, could be the cause of genetic deafness.

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The scientists are working diligently to come up with a solution to reverse deafness and the recent successful clinical trial on the genetically deaf mice has illuminated the path of reversing deafness in human children.

The success of gene therapy in a mouse has laid the foundations of therapeutic use of this therapy in humans in the coming five to ten years. “It was one of those ‘Eureka!’ moments. One day gene therapy might be a simple outpatient procedure”, Jeffrey Holt, an associate professor of otology and laryngology at Harvard Medical School, told the Boston Herald about their success of restoring mouse’s hearing ability.

The experiment comprised of two mice. One of them had TMC1 completely deleted while the other had a specific TMC1 mutation. Both of these errors are found in deaf humans too. The deleted gene represented the recessive mutation in a two-year old child with hearing loss while specific mutation was a model of the mutation which results in gradual hearing loss in children of 10 to 15 years old.

To reverse deafness, scientists injected a virus with a genetic sequence into the ear of the mice. The sequence switched on the genes in some specific sensory cells and helped the mice regain its hearing ability. An auditory startle test was also performed to recheck their hearing ability.

After this victory, the scientists are hopeful and soon expect to restore human hearing ability too.


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