Proteins Discovered by Researchers That Can Restore Damaged Sound Detecting Cells

Utilizing genetic instruments in mice, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine say they have recognized a pair of proteins that precisely control when sound-detecting cells, generally known as hair cells, are born in the mammalian inner ear. The proteins, described in a report printed June 12 in eLife, might hold the key to future therapies to restore hearing in individuals with irreversible deafness.

"Scientists in our field have long been on the lookout for the molecular signals that trigger the formation of the hair cells that sense and transmit sound," says Angelika Doetzlhofer, Ph.D., associate professor of neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "These hair cells are a significant player in hearing loss, and knowing more about how they develop will assist us to figure out methods to replace hair cells which are damaged."

In order for mammals to hear, sound vibrations travel through a hollow, snail shell-looking structure known as the cochlea. Lining the inside of the cochlea are two forms of sound-detecting cells, inner and outer hair cells, which convey sound information to the brain.

An estimated 90% of genetic hearing loss is caused by problems with hair cells or damage to the auditory nerves that join the hair cells to the brain. Deafness because of exposure to loud noises or certain viral infections arises from damage to hair cells. Unlike their counterparts in other mammals and birds, human hair cells cannot regenerate. So, once hair cells are damaged, hearing loss is likely permanent.

Shekhar G

Shekhar looks after the editorial duties of the News column. He possesses a deep background in Share market and market research. Prior to joining Reliable Magazine, he was a full-time market investment adviser at Investing. Shekhar holds degrees in Finance and Economics from the University of Boston.