Genetic hearing loss is one of the main causes which leads to deafness, and there’s nothing you can do about it. However, a team of researchers used the popular gene-editing technique CRISPR prevent some baby mice from going deaf because of this congenital condition. Now, researchers hope they can apply the same treatment to humans as well.
Deafness is genetically inherited in half of the cases
About half of all cases of deafness are inherited, which leaves us with limited options of treatment. This means the deafness traits are present in the genes, so the rapid emergence of gene-editing methods like CRISPR can be one of the best solutions for this kind of problems.
Researchers decided to explore the effectiveness of CRISPR in this congenital hearing loss issue, and discovered that only one injection containing the gene-editing tools could prevent baby mice from going deaf when there was apparently no other solution.
The gene-editing technique erased the mutated gene
At first, researchers had to identify the mutated gene which could cause deafness. This was Tmc1, which leads to the gradual loss of the hair cells of the inner year over time. These cells are essential in creating the hearing sensation, as they pick up all the sound vibrations and then transmit them to the nerves. If a child inherits the mutated gene, the hairs will gradually degrade until they go completely deaf.
However, the child must have a non-mutated version of the gene as well, inherited from the other parent. Therefore, researchers decided to see if they could use CRISPR to delete the mutated gene. They tested it on mice with inherited deafness and, after eight weeks, the hairs in the inner ear resembled those of healthy mice. Also, the hearing test came back positive.