Researchers have taken another step toward reversing deafness using gene therapy.
The latest success involves mice with an inherited form of deafness, a team reports Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine. And a similar approach is already being tried in people with hearing loss caused by damage to cells in the inner ear.
"I'd say we are very close" to having gene therapies that can restore hearing loss from a wide range of causes, says Dr. Tobias Moser, a professor of auditory neuroscience at the University of Göttingen in Germany. Moser wrote an article accompanying the mouse study.
The new study is the result of an effort to help children with hearing loss caused by genetic defects, says co-author Jeffrey Holt, a researcher at Harvard and Boston Children's Hospital whose work is supported by the Bertarelli Foundation. In the U.S. alone, thousands of children are born each year with inherited hearing loss.
But gene therapies could eventually allow many of them to hear, Holt says. "A baby who is born deaf could have their genome sequenced," he says. "If we identify the specific gene that's causing the deafness then you could tailor a precision treatment, hopefully restoring function."

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