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Scientists Used Gene Therapy to Cure Deafness in Mice

Scientists Used Gene Therapy to Cure Deafness in Mice
Technology
About half of the time someone is born totally deaf, it’s because of their genetic makeup. Those people are typically treated with cochlear implants , but now researchers from Europe and the U.S. are looking at gene-based treatments as well.

Deaf mice treated with a new kind of gene therapy developed the ability to hear almost as well as healthy mice, according to research published Tuesday in the journal PNAS — findings that suggest gene therapies may someday help with previously-untreatable conditions.

But after altering the deaf mice’s genomes with specially-crafted viruses, the mice were able to hear almost as well as mice that were born with functioning otoferlin.

Even after altering the same specific gene in mice as what causes DFNB9 deafness in humans, it’s too soon to say that these gene-editing viruses can be used to treat people. There’s a long road between animal experiments and human clinics.

There’s more reason to be wary of this treatment. According to a conflict of interest statement in the PNAS article, one researcher from the University of Florida stands to profit if this virus-based technology takes off — so it’s worth waiting to see if the work holds up in further studies.

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