Genetic Therapy for Deafness?

My Google Alerts have been lighting up the last two days with all the news around a new research study released by Professor Gary Housley of Univeristy of New South Wales Australia, who’s team has successfully regenerated cells in the cochlea of a guinea pig using a combination of electrical stimulation from a cochlear implant and injected DNA cells.

Here’s one of the better articles from Wired: Genetic Tricks Could Make Bionic Ears Hear Better.

(From Wired): Cochlear nerve neurons (green) before (bottom) and after (top) gene therapy in the same animal. UNSW Australia Translational Neuroscience Facility, J. Pinyon and G. Housle

(From Wired): Cochlear nerve neurons (green) before (bottom) and after (top) gene therapy in the same animal. UNSW Australia Translational Neuroscience Facility, J. Pinyon and G. Housle

The articles are laden with medical technical jargon that I don’t pretend to understand. This one may be the worst, I just had to include it for laughs:

In the study, Professor Housley and colleagues used the cochlear implant electrode array for novel “close-field” electroporation to transduce mesenchymal cells lining the cochlear perilymphatic canals with a naked complementary DNA gene construct driving expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor and a green fluorescent protein reporter. The focusing of electric fields by particular cochlear implant electrode configurations led to surprisingly efficient gene delivery to adjacent mesenchymal cells.

Woah.

Regardless of the jargon, its easy to jump on the hope bandwagon here. Cochlear implants, while a miraculous invention, are still very clunky devices. They are still quite limited in their abilities to reproduce pitch at levels equivalent to a functional ear, and much too bulky. For our techie friends, its like we’re living in the age of Apple II computers when we want an iphone instead.

I blogged about this quite some time ago that the “true” fix needs to be at the biological level – actual regeneration of the damaged cells. While I’m sure the actual realization of this dream is still far out, its awesome that research is proceeding so quickly in this direction. I’m 100% optimistic a solution will be available for Fiona in her lifetime.

Some other night time reading to help put you to bed…

 

 

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One thought on “Genetic Therapy for Deafness?

  1. Kelly Mackey

    I read the abstract for the Pinyon, et al. article. Assuming that the study itself is valid, that is an awesome discovery! Thanks for sharing!

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