Specific protein may be the key to gene therapy for deafness


Scientists at Oregon State University (OSU; Corvallis, OR, USA) believe they have made an important discovery in relation to gene therapy for deaf patients by developing a better way to test a specific protein that is essential for hearing.

Specific protein may be the key to gene therapy for deafness

The research was led by Colin Johnson, OSU Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics, and his team who are determined to find innovative gene therapy that could be used to restore hearing. They studied zebra fish because this species has the same type of sensory hair cells that humans have, and these cells are located directly on the surface of the fish, making them easily accessible.

“We thought, let’s try zebra fish as a model to understand hearing and deafness,” Johnson explained to Fox12 Oregon. The research focused specifically on a protein called otoferlin, encoded by the OTOF gene and found in the inner ear.

Johnson says that there is great interest in this particular gene because it seems to be at the epicenter of general hearing loss. “It seems to be a bit of a one trick pony in that it exclusively controls hearing and balance,” he said. Since the otoferlin protein is particularly large and therefore difficult to study, the research team developed a new way to test a shortened version of it. In their test, it was found that this condensed form can also function in the encoding of sound and could be used for gene therapy.

Source: Fox12 Oregon