More than 1.5 billion people around the world experience some type of hearing disorder, much of which can be attributed to auditory hair cell loss and dysfunction.
In a recent paper, Wayne State University School of Medicine researchers Zhengqing Hu, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, and Xin Deng, M.D., former research assistant in Otolaryngology, investigated the functionality of newly-generated hair cells induced by a previously established epigenetic approach in a deafened adult mouse. The paper, “Hearing Recovery Induced by DNA Demethylation in a Chemically Deafened Adult Mouse,” was published in Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience.
Previous reports demonstrated promising — but limited — progress on hair cell function regeneration. The advantage of Dr. Hu and Deng’s epigenetic approach is that it does not change the DNA sequence, which may be critical for future clinical applications.
Results of the study indicated both new hair cell growth and returned hearing functionality of those new hair cells in cochlear sections.
This study is significant because it may open avenues to develop novel methods to restore the function of hair cells to treat hearing loss in humans. Outcomes of this study may also be applied to other neurodegenerative diseases, potentially providing insights into translational research to generate functional cells via epigenetics-based reprogramming.
“We look forward to furthering this study to understand the underlying molecular mechanism and translating these findings into clinical trials to treat hearing loss patients in the future,” Dr. Hu said.
The study was supported by the Veterans Affairs Merit Review Award (RX002100) and the Wayne State University Grants Plus Program.