Image: Stem Cell Institute
Gene therapy is the replacement or insertion of of a corrected gene to repair genes that are defective or missing. In a recent study published in Nature Biotechnology, researchers from Boston's Children's Hospital, Massachusetts Eye and Ear, and Harvard Medical School were able to use gene therapy to develop a vector called Anc80 to reach the inner hairs of the cochlea. The cochlea is an imperative part of the ear because it is what transfers sounds to nerve messages; it transfers sound information to the brain. Using Anc80 and mice, the team was able to reach the inner part of the cochlea in mice to restore the cells affected by cochlear damage. They found that 19 out of 25 mice could hear below 80 decibels, and some could hear as low as 25-30 decibels, which is basically a whisper. This is a huge step for future research of restoring or adjusting hearing loss in human patients, especially in those diagnosed at a young age.
I'm excited to learn more about this and see where research takes us because I have relatives who suffer from hearing loss. Even though their hearing loss is not nearly as bad as some, it still effects their everyday lives and makes it difficult to perform specific tasks.