A study has identified new genes linked to hearing loss in mice, which will provide insights into the causes of hearing loss in humans (Nat Commun. 2017;8:886). Scientists from Medical Research Council Hartwell who led the research found 67 genes that were associated with hearing loss, of which 52 had not been previously connected to hearing loss, by testing 3,006 strains of mice for signs of hearing loss. They assessed the hearing thresholds of these mice with rising volumes of sounds at different frequencies. Mice were considered hearing impaired if they could not hear the quieter sounds for two or more frequencies. The genes identified varied in how they affect hearing, with effects ranging from mild to severe hearing loss or hearing difficulties at lower or higher frequencies.
Steve Brown, PhD, senior author of this paper, said the results of the study increased the knowledge of the many genes and molecular mechanisms required for hearing and provide a short list of new genes to investigate to discover the genetic basis of many human hearing loss syndrome. "Further investigation of these hearing loss mouse models will increase understanding of how the auditory system develops, is maintained, and the pathological processes involved with its decline," Brown said. "In particular, we need to establish whether the genes impact on known hearing loss pathways or if they implicate new processes in the auditory system. A longer term benefit that could arise from studying these models might be the identification of critical cellular functions, which can then be targets for therapies."