Understanding inner ear development to restore hearing

Genetics

© Flávio Takemoto - Sxc

The Researchers from Howard Hughes Medical Institute, The Rockefeller University, in New York, carried out a study in mice and showed that two genes are down-regulated after normal development of the vestibular organ, the utricle. These findings, published in the October edition of the PNAS may help to explain why mammals cannot regenerate damaged hair cells.

They found that the Sox4 and Sox11 genes, coding for SoxC proteins, were highly expressed in the developing utricular macula, but were strongly down-regulated soon after birth. By altering gene expression, it was found that abolished activity led to abnormal development and that overexpression of these genes in adult mice could induce renewed production of cilia within fully developed utricles. This suggests that these genes play an important role during inner ear development.

The findings are particularly important since they may open a new pathway to restoring hearing and balance. Lead author, Ksenia Gnedeva explains, “Our ultimate goal is to find a target that would allow us to restore hair cells later on in life. It appears possible that these proteins, or perhaps other steps in the same pathway, might be potential targets.”

MedicalXpress; Gnedeva K, Hudspeth AJ. SoxC transcription factors are essential for the development of the inner ear. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 2015 Oct 26.

C.S.