Deafness Might Be Preventable by Editing Genes
For the first time, researchers have used an innovative, state-of-the-art genome editing technique to prevent deafness in mice. There is hope that, in the future, they will be able to use this method to stop the loss of hearing in humans.
Could gene editing procedures be used to prevent hereditary deafness?
According to data from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, around two to three children in every 1,000 in the United States are born with a hearing impairment in one or both ears, and about 15 percent of adults have hearing problems.
Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that 50 to 60 percent of hearing loss cases in babies are due to genetic factors, caused by the mutation of genes that “program” hearing.
Recently, scientists have been experimenting with genome editing methods in the hope that they would be able to manipulate it so as to prevent the onset of total deafness due to genetic factors.
Researchers at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, MD, have now used precise genome editing technology called CRISPR-Cas9 on a mouse model to remove a gene variant that can lead to total loss of hearing.
“We hope that the work will one day inform the development of a cure for certain forms of genetic deafness in people,” says David Liu, one of the researchers involved with the study.
Liu and colleagues detail the process and their findings in a paper published in the journal Nature.