Scientists from the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, United States, have managed to regenerate the hair cells of the inner ear and return the hearing to mice, manipulating two genes for it, a finding that could help develop new strategies to address the deafness also in humans, as stated by the authors of the work, whose results have been published in Cell Reports.
The function of hair cells it consists of detecting the sound and transmitting the sound information to the brain; however, its degeneration, which may be due to the aging process, to a continuous exposure to intense noise, to certain diseases or medical treatments, or to an accident, has as a consequence hearing loss of irreversible nature.
The degeneration of the ciliated cells of the inner ear results in an irreversible hearing loss
Researchers had observed that these cells do regenerate in fish and chickens, and that for this the down regulation of the expression of the p27 protein, and the rise of the protein ATOH1 occurs, so they decided manipulate mice genetically to reproduce in them the same procedure, reducing the expression of p27 and increasing the expression of ATOH1.
A way to look for new treatments for deafness
In carrying out their experiment, the scientists also found that two other proteins - GATA3 and POU4F3 - were involved in the regeneration of hair cells. They have stated that their intention is to carry out a phase I clinical trial to test whether their findings could contribute to develop new treatments that would reverse the hearing loss also in human beings. In fact, Jian Zuo, who has led the research, has explained that they intend to identify all the factors involved in stimulating the maturation and survival of the new hair cells, as well as increasing their number.