Several genes that play a role in how our body's cells normally auto-destruct may play a role in age-related hearing loss, according to research published online in the journal Apoptosis a journal devoted to the topic of cell suicide, or programmed cell death.
Doctors know that genetics play some role in such hearing loss, which affects nearly everyone older than 60, as well as many people somewhat younger. But while more than 100 genes are known to play a role in congenital deafness, scientists have yet to pinpoint any gene in humans that plays a role in presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss.
The research in mice, done by using sophisticated technology comparing gene activity in older mice to their younger counterparts, offers a sort of roadmap to researchers who are confident they are closing in on some of the genetic factors that are part of the process in people.
"It's very likely that multiple genes contribute to age-related hearing loss," said Robert D. Frisina, Ph.D., the lead investigator and professor of Otolaryngology at the University of Rochester Medical Center. "We know the same is true for other diseases, for instance some types of cancer and heart disease."
Frisina is co-director of the International Center for Hearing and Speech Research, which is based both at the University of Rochester Medical Center and at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, N.Y. The group comprises one of the largest research groups in the world devoted to studying, and preventing, the problem of hearing loss as we get older.
The team has spent nearly 20 years looking at the problem. More than 800 people have been put through a rigorous battery of tests that analyze the condition of their ears, their brain performance, and their genes. Despite the effort and that of other groups around the world, there is currently no way to reverse the hearing loss, largely because of the complexity of the proc
|Contact: Tom Rickey|
University of Rochester Medical Center