A single master gene has been identified that can program ear hairs and help restore hearing, according to Northwestern Medicine scientists.
What to know:
Scientists think they can now reprogram existing cells once they die to develop into the outer and inner ear sensory cells, which are essential for hearing.
A single master gene called TBX2 that programs ear hair cells into either outer or inner ones has been found by scientists, overcoming a major hurdle that had prevented the development of these cells to restore hearing.
The two types of ear hair have different functions, with the outer ear hairs crouching and jumping while lifting the inners further into the ear to allow hearing to occur.
The outer hair cells expand and contract in response to the pressure from sound waves and amplify sound for the inner hair cells, which transmit those vibrations to the neurons to create the sounds we hear.
About 8.5% of adults aged 55-64 in the United States have disabling hearing loss, and that number increases to nearly 25% of those aged 65-74 and 50% of those who are 75 and older.
This is a summary of the article “New Tool to Create Hearing Cells Lost in Aging,” published by the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern on May 4, 2022. The full article can be found on news.feinberg.northwestern.edu.
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