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New Discovery Sheds Light on Hereditary Hearing Loss

For the first time, researchers have developed a way to express, or remove, a key part of myosin 15, a molecular motor protein that helps build healthy hearing structures in the inner ear. Mutations in myosin 15 have been linked to hereditary deafness in humans. This new insight can allow researchers to better understand the protein’s structure and function and lead to the development of future treatments for some forms of hearing loss.

The study was a collaborative effort between the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

These findings will build upon past NIDCD research regarding stereocilia, a portion of the delicate hair cells in the inner ear that aid in communicating sounds. It is believed that myosin 15 helps to build stereocilia, but its exact role in the process is still unknown.

This new approach to expressing the protein can also help advance the study of possible drug therapies for other conditions affected by myosin motors, such as heart disease.

 

Additional Resources:

Read the full published study in the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Anatomy of the ear

Gene therapy and hearing loss treatment

 

Last updated: September 23, 2014

 

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