Sat May 12, 2012 1:1PM
A new type of gene therapy can treat hearing loss by regenerating sensory hair cells, a new US study suggests. Researchers at Emory University School of Medicine indicate that a gene called Atoh1 could induce the formation of extra-sensory hair cells, which are responsible for producing electrical signals in response to vibrations within the inner ear. According to the findings published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the extra hair cells, connected with neurons, produce electrical signals like normal hair cells. "We've shown that hair cell regeneration is possible in principle," said the associate professor of cell biology at Emory University School of Medicine, Ping Chen. In this regard, the team engineered mice to turn on the Atoh1 gene in response to the antibiotic doxycycline. The mice had the Atoh1 gene turned on in specific cells along the lining of the inner ear, called the cochlear epithelium. Young mice given doxycycline for two days had extra sensory hair cells, particularly in places where the cochlear hair cells usually appear. The research revealed that the extra hair cells could generate electrical signals, although those signals were not as strong as that produced by mature hair cells. FGP/PKH