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Will age-related hearing loss be curable in the future?
A number of regulatory genes have been identified in fruit flies, which are responsible for maintaining healthy hearing. This new discovery could contribute to the treatment of age-related hearing loss in humans.
The latest study by University College London, Imperial College London and the University of Edinburgh identified fruit fly genes that are responsible for healthy hearing. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Scientific Reports".
Hearing loss is very common in old age
Many people develop hearing problems with age. According to the researchers, a third of people (1.23 billion) over the age of 65 suffer from hearing loss. It is believed that there are more than 150 genes that can affect hearing loss. Nevertheless, there is no uniform opinion on how these can be used to develop new types of hearing loss therapies.
Why did the study examine the fruit fly?
Although humans and fruit flies are very different, the ear of the fruit fly has many molecular similarities to human ears, making it ideal for studying human hearing loss. So far, however, there has been no study that examined the hearing of the fruit fly throughout its entire life.
Fruit fly hearing was examined
In the current study, the hearing of the common fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) was analyzed for the first time over its entire lifespan (about 70 days). This was to determine whether your hearing decreased with age.
What role did genes play in the inner ear?
With the help of advanced methods, the researchers found that the ears of the fruit flies also show age-related hearing loss. The hearing of the flies deteriorated from about the 50th day of their lives. The researchers then tried to find out whether there are genes in the inner ear of flies that change with age.
Certain genes keep the ear sensitive
The research group identified for the first time a set of so-called transcription regulator genes. There are certain genes that control the activity that keeps the ear sensitive.
Can age-related hearing loss be avoided?
An advantage in the fly model is that the role of the individual genes can be easily tested by either increasing their functions or switching them off. The researchers found that manipulating some genes can prevent flies from developing age-related hearing loss.
Accelerated development of new strategies against hearing loss
The discovery that fruit flies suffer from age-related hearing loss and that their past hearing health is controlled by a certain set of genes is a major breakthrough, the research group explains. The fact that these genes are conserved in humans will help focus future clinical research in humans, thereby accelerating the discovery of new pharmacological or gene therapy strategies, the team adds.
Further research is already underway
Based on the findings, the research group has already started a follow-up project to identify new drugs for the treatment of age-related hearing loss. The results of the current study not only promote understanding of why hearing decreases with age, but also open the door to the future development of treatments for the prevention of hearing loss, the researchers report. (as)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Alyona Keder, Camille Tardieu, Liza Malong, Anastasia Filia, Assel Kashkenbayeva et al .: Homeostatic maintenance and age-related functional decline in the Drosophila ear, in Scientific Reports (published May 4, 2020), Scientific Reports