Breakthrough!: Recent Research from the LMA

January 13, 2012
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A First Step to Curing Deafness

A first step to a possible cure for genetically caused deafness has been taken by a research team co-led by Children’s Hospital Boston’s Dr. Jeffrey Holt.

The sense of hearing is produced by tiny hairs inside the ear. The hairs move when hit by sound waves and turn the movement into an electrical impulse to the brain. In a genetic form of deafness, the hairs cannot convert the movement into an electrical impulse because of a lack of key proteins.

For 30 years, researchers have attempted to pinpoint the genes that are responsible for that form of deafness. Holt’s team finally found them last year. They were even able to create a gene therapy to replace the missing protein. But it is not clear if that therapy would actually restore hearing.

The researchers next will conduct a study to see if gene therapy can cure that form of deafness.

The study was reported in November in the online version of the “Journal of Clinical Investigation.”

From press materials.

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