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February 14, 2005

Scientists Restore Hearing in Deaf Guinea Pigs

From: Elites TV - Dickinson,TX,USA - Feb 14, 2005

Scientists at the University of Michigan were able to restore the hearing in deaf Guinea Pigs in a research study published today in the journal 'Nature Medicine.' This marks the first time that mammals have had their hearing restored using gene therapy.

A corrective gene was treated with a virus and then inserted into the ears of the subject guinea pigs. The genes were designed to cause the formation of new cochlear hair cells - the key intermediates in converting sound waves into electrical impulses - in the ears of artificially deafened adult guinea pigs. The animals later responded to sounds.

Cochlear hair cells are easily damaged in humans and once damaged, cannot be repaired by the body. The result is hearing loss as humans age. The gene therapy helped convert supporting cells into hair cells that helped restore the animals' hearing.

The technique is still at least 10 years away from testing in humans but it holds out great hope for the future.

Everybody in the field was amazed that this worked,' said Matthew W. Kelley, a neuroscientist of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. 'We thought it was going to be really hard and that it would require a whole lot of genes.'

While the guinea pigs did respond to sound after the therapy, it is uncertain what the quality is of their restored hearing. That is the next step in the experiment according to researchers.

Brad Kurtzberg

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