- Published on 14 August 2019
If the mice are right, there is a drug fix for age-related hearing loss just around the next bureaucratic corner: the hormone aldosterone, combined with anti-inflammatory medicine, can rejuvenate hearing, says the team behind the development.
And testing on mice did not lead to negative side-effects such as rising blood pressure, the researchers say.
There are two big steps left before such a drug can be sold to the public: first, the current patent needs to be licensed, and that process is under way; next come four levels of human clinical trials by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the pharmaceutical company licensing the drug. If the FDA approves it, the drug will become available.
So far, pre-clinical testing on ageing mice proved successful. Over four months (akin to seven or eight years of human treatment), the mice were treated with aldosterone, a naturally-occurring steroid that influences sodium and potassium regulation in the body, including the inner ear. This level falls as we age, contributing to hearing loss. Untreated ageing mice experienced a 50% fall in aldosterone compared to young adult mice. But after treatment, the formers' aldosterone levels rose and the mice did not experience hearing loss, which did affect the untreated control group of mice.
The research is led by Robert Frisina, chair of the University of South Florida (USF) Medical Engineering Department and director of the USF Global Center for Hearing and Speech Research. It is funded by a $9m grant awarded by the US National Institutes of Health.