08 March 2005

Hair cells restored in mice

A special gene in the ear may be part of the reason why your body is unable to grow new hair cells in the inner ear to replace dead hair cells, according to research at Harvard Medical School. The hair cells are vital for our hearing.

The scientists hope that the discovery of the gene may open the way to future treatment of age related hearing loss which is often caused by the loss of the hair cells in the ear, writes BBC News.

The research published in the scientific journal, Science, found that a protein produced by the so-called retinoblastoma (pRb) gene prevents the generation of new hear cells to replace the dead hair cells, causing hearing loss.

The results were found in mouse experiments in which the scientists succeeded in deactivating the gene. Subsequently, they could see that new hair cells started to grow and spread in the mice with the deactivated gene.

"Deletion of this gene can allow functioning hair cells to continue to divide. They are no longer limited by whatever growth controls existed before. This work gives us an invaluable window into the control mechanism, which could lead to eventual clinical application in regenerating lost hair cells," Dr David Corey, a Harvard Medical School scientist told BBC News.

Dr Corey pointed out, however, that much further research is necessary before it can be determined if any treatment of age related or other hearing loss will be possible.

Source: news.bbc.co.uk 12.01.2005

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