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New drug may restore hearing

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Hearing

A new drug could restore hearing by ‘turning on’ genes that keep vital hair cells in the inner ear alive, new research suggests.

The study shows that a particular kind of genetic deafness, called DFNA27, can be reversed using a molecular drug that ‘acts like a switch’ for deafness, according to one researcher.

“We were able to partially restore hearing, especially at lower frequencies, and save some sensory hair cells,” Thomas Friedman, a study co-author, said.

Although the study was conducted on mice, the researchers say that: “If additional studies show that small-molecule-based drugs are effective in treating DFNA27 deafness in people, it’s possible that using similar approaches might work for other inherited forms of progressive hearing loss.”

Deafness has genetic causes in more than 50 per cent of people – and is largely incurable.

What the researchers did: The team from NIDCD (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders) in the US bred mice with DRNA27: a mutation on human chromosomes that causes hereditary deafness.

The researchers discovered how a mutation on DFNA27 prevents the production of inner ear hair cells through a process called REST.

After identifying the mutation, they introduced a molecule-sized drug.

This stopped REST and allowed new hair cells to be built: partially restoring hearing to the mice.

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