June 15, 2007
Hearing loss is the number one disability in the world. A team at the University of Virginia recently made significant strides in finding a cure for this disorder.
Dr. Jeffery Holt and his colleague at IVA, Dr. Bradley Kisser, have been working towards a cure for the past three years.
They first ran tests on lab mice and then moved on to human tissue.
"Now by looking at human tissue now we can see by what we've learned there is going to be director applicable to treating deafness in the future," said Holt.
They took the human inner ear tissue and grew it in a lab dish.
Then they searched for one of the one-hundred human genes associated with hearing loss.
"The next step after figuring that out was to see if we could put genes back into this tissue, the long term objective would be to take the correct copy of the gene and put it into the tissue and restore hearing function in a patient who has genetic hearing loss," said Holt.
After years of hard work, they got the answer they were looking for.
Holt said, "We use the correct copy and then put those vectors into the sensory cells of the inner ear and show that the correct gene is then present and expressed."
Dr. Holt says many times patients without the ability to hear experience social isolation, which often times leads to disorders like depression.
"So by restoring function we would hope that we could really restore quality of life for these patients," said Holt.
The team was able to perform this research through funding grants from the National Institutes of Health and private donations.