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Friday, October 20, 2017

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[1]: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."

 

 


Friday, October 13, 2017

​The startup SonicCloud (https://soniccloud.com/) has launched an iOS app that allows those with moderate to severe hearing loss hear phone calls clearly by calibrating every mobile phone call for their unique hearing needs. The SonicCloud App users will be able to determine custom levels for their right and left ears by taking a quick hearing assessment on the app. Each user gets his or her own personal Hearing Fingerprint, which is driven by an algorithm in the cloud that adjusts to an individual's hearing needs. Incoming and outgoing calls are then processed through SonicCloud's "mixing board in the cloud," which optimizes voices and noisy environments. The SonicCloud App is the company's first step towards making hearing technology truly accessible to hearing-impaired individuals. SonicCloud was featured in Apple's 2017 Worldwide Developers Conference. 

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Friday, October 6, 2017

Spiral Therapeutics (http://www.spiraltx.com/), a pre-clinical stage company developing first-in-class therapies targeting inner ear disorders, has received positive feedback from the U.S. Drug and Food Administration (FDA) regarding its first Pre-Investigational New Drug (Pre-IND) package submission.  The FDA answered Spiral's product development questions related to manufacturing and non-clinical testing, and concurred with the company's clinical development plans for its LPT99 program for preventing chemotherapy-induced hearing loss in pediatric patients. Pre-IND is a program through which the FDA's Office of Antimicrobial Products could provide advice on drug development before it begins. Spiral plans to raise additional funds for an initial Phase 1 trial, the development of new preclinical data, and the company's operations for the next 18 months.​


Friday, September 29, 2017

​The medical device startup iotaMotion (http://iotamotion.com/) has been awarded a $1.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop its next-generation implantable robotic technology IOTA-Progress. The company will use this funding from the NIH's Small Business Innovation Research program to hone a robotic-assisted cochlear implant insertion system that will provide precise and controlled electrode advancement during hybrid cochlear implant surgeries. Marlan Hansen, MD, one of the founders of iotaMotion, said providing a more controlled, fine electrode insertion of the electrode should significantly enhance professionals' ability to preserve hearing. "Then we have what this grant is helping to fund for our company, which is the development of an implantable system allowing for electrode adjustments within the cochlea after the original surgery, without surgical intervention," Hansen said. "The goal here is optimal positioning within the cochlea to best match that patient's hearing, which often changes over time."


Friday, September 22, 2017

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Researchers in Europe found that barn owls have what they call "ageless ears," which could potentially help with identifying new treatment options for hearing-impaired humans (Proc Biol Sci 2017;284[1863] pii: 20171584). They measured the auditory sensitivity of seven barn owls ranging from less than 2 years old to 23 years old by training them to fly to a perch to receive a food reward in response to an auditory cue. Young and old owls both responded to the varying levels of auditory cues, and the oldest owl at 23 years old heard just as well as the younger owls. ​Georg Klump, a professor at the University of Oldenburg, Germany and one of the study authors, told BBC that owls keep their hearing into very old age. "Birds can repair their ears like (humans) can repair a wound," he said. "Humans cannot re-grow the sensory cells of the ears but birds can do this." Work is underway to investigate the differences between birds and mammals, which commonly lose their hearing at old age. ​

​Photo credit: ​Lubos Houska