30 November 2009

Gene mutations causing tinnitus

Tinnitus in combination with hearing loss may be caused by genetic changes and may become curable with gene therapy in the future, say Australian scientists.

Tinnitus resulting from hyperactive nerve cells in the sound processing parts of the brain often accompany one-sided hearing loss. The exact reasons have always puzzled hearing scientists, and there is no known effective general treatment of tinnitus.

This may be about to change due to discoveries made by researchers at the University of Western Australia.

The scientists generated hearing damage and subsequent tinnitus in guinea pigs and recorded the levels of hearing loss and tinnitus. They found that increased activity in the nerve cells are caused by changes in the genes regulating nerve cell activity.

Gene therapy
According to the scientists, the discovery gives rise to hope that calming the nerve cells may alleviate or even cure tinnitus. The underlying cause being changes in the genes, gene therapy may become a possible treatment.

“Identifying genes associated with spontaneous nerve cell activity is crucial. It means that it may be possible to use drugs to block this activity and treat conditions such as tinnitus in the future,” stated Don Robertson, the leading researcher behind the discovery, to RNID, the British hearing organisation and sponsor of the research.

Read more: Is bilateral tinnitus genetic?

Sources: www.rnid.org.uk; Neuroscience vol. 159, issue 3

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