Replacing lost sensory hair cells in the inner ear may restore partial hearing ability of the deaf mammals, say a recent study published in Nature Medicine.
Scientists are of the opinion that viral vector found in a developmental regulatory gene called Atoh1 can be used to encourage new hairs to grow in the cochleae of the inner ear. This gene is also called Math1. The new sensory hairs grow as the differentiated non-sensory cells of the inner ear are encouraged to change the phenotype.
Deafness is often associated with loss of sensory hairs in the cochlea due to age, infection or disease. Hearing loss becomes incurable, as the lost sensory hair cells do not regenerate. The new gene therapy may be able to cause clinically deaf people to get back some part of their hearing sensations.
Tested on guinea pigs with a positive result, the procedure shows enough promise to be tested on human beings. This is probably the first time it may be possible to do cellular and functional damage repair of the organ of corti in deaf mammals.