Deafness: this gene could help you regain your hearing

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It would be a revolution for people with deafness. According to a new American study, published in the journal Nature on May 4, 2022, researchers from Northwestern Medicine have found a way to regain hearing after losing it. Indeed, the only way to regain hearing was until now to use a hearing aid since no other remedy exists.

Deafness: the TBX2 gene would restore hearing

However, the researchers discovered that the programming of the hair cells of the ear depends on a gene: the TBX2. To understand, you have to know that when you lose your hearing, it means that cells related to hearing, called hair cells (internal or external), are dead. Indeed, present in the organ of Corti of the ear, these sensory cells are essential for the transmission of sound to our brain. However, if they are destroyed, it is impossible to replace them.

According to the discovery of scientists, when the TBX2 gene is activated, the cell becomes an inner hair cell. Gold, when this is blocked, the cell becomes an outer hair cell. “This will provide a tool, previously unavailable, to make an inner or outer hair cell,” says Jaime Garcia-Anoveros, lead author of the research. “We overcame a major hurdle.” As a reminder, in France, deafness affects 65% of people aged 65 and over, according to Inserm. This represents approximately six million French people. In addition, more than 10% of the French population would face hearing loss or a decrease in hearing during their lifetime, according to Ameli.

Hearing: blocking the TBX2 produces the inner or outer cell needed

But before they can implement this discovery, researchers must create hair cells. For this, they use two other genes: ATOH1 and GF1. Afterwards, the TBX2 would be activated or deactivated to produce the necessary internal or external cell. “We can now understand how to specifically manufacture inner or outer hair cells,” says Jaime Garcia-Anoveros. They will also be able to “identify why the latter are more likely to die and cause deafness”.

Usually, hearing loss is caused by aging. We then speak of presbycusis. However, hearing loss can also be caused by too much noise exposure, ear infections or earwax buildup. In the rarest cases, hearing loss is due to autoimmune diseases, congenital diseases, certain injuries or tumours. Moreover, some treatments can also damage the ear. This is particularly the case with ototoxic drugs.

Hearing: a discovery still in the experimental stage

However, even if the results of this study are promising, Jaime Garcia-Anoveros points out that this research is still in the experimental stage and that further work will be needed to find concrete applications for this discovery.

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