Researchers Discover Protein That Could Restore Hearing In Deaf People

Could this research help cure deafness?

Researchers at John's Hopkins University School of Medicine said they have identified two proteins that responsible for growing cells related to hearing.

The researchers found the proteins using genetic tools in mice, Science Daily said, and it could be a major breakthrough for restoring hearing in once irreversible deafness. The proteins help grow what are known as hair cells, which live in the inner ear of mammals. 

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The two proteins identified were Activin A and follistatin. 

"In nature, we knew that Activin A and follistatin work in opposite ways to regulate cells," Angelika Doetzlhofer, an associate professor of neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said. "And so, it seems, based on our findings like in the ear, the two proteins perform a balancing act on precursor cells to control the orderly formation of hair cells along the cochlear spiral."

Shutterstock / GUNDAM_Ai

Humans hear when the ear detects vibrations through the tiny hairs on the inner ear. Science Daily estimates that 90 percent of all genetic hearing loss is due to those hair cells being damaged. Deafness from loud sounds is also due to damage to those hair cells. By identifying the proteins that help grow them, scientists think they could repair the hair cells and undo damage. 

"Scientists in our field have long been looking for the molecular signals that trigger the formation of the hair cells that sense and transmit sound,"  Doetzlhofer said. "These hair cells are a major player in hearing loss, and knowing more about how they develop will help us figure out ways to replace hair cells that are damaged."

Cover photo: Shutterstock / GUNDAM_Ai

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