Scientists say they have taken a significant step towards treating some forms of deafness after restoring hearing in animals. Defects in a baby’s DNA are behind roughly half of cases of hearing loss in early life.
The mouse study, published in Science Translational Medicine, showed a virus could correct the genetic fault and restore some hearing. Experts said the results could lead to treatments within a decade. The team in the US and Switzerland focused on the tiny hairs inside the ear, which convert sounds into electrical signals that can be interpreted by the brain. But mutations in our DNA can leave hairs unable to create the electrical signal – leaving people unable to hear.
Viral therapy – The research team developed a genetically modified virus that could infect the hair cells and correct the error. It was tested on “profoundly deaf” mice, which would not notice being at a loud rock concert (with sound levels at 115 dB). Injections of the virus into the ears led to a “substantial improvement” in hearing, although not to normal levels. The animals could hear the equivalent of the noise inside a moving car (85 dB). They also altered their behaviour in response to sounds throughout the 60-day study. Edited from: Deafness could be treated by virus, say scientists