Drug restores lost hearing

Loud noises can damage sensitive inner ear cells

A new drug may be able to combat noise-induced hearing loss. Loud noises can damage sensitive inner ear cells called hair cells (mouse hair cells shown), which in mammals don’t grow back. That’s why rock musicians, factory workers, carpenters and other people who are surrounded by loud sounds often suffer hearing loss. A study in mice may point out a way to reverse the effects of this acoustical trauma. The compound LY411575, a type of molecule called a gamma-secretase inhibitor, got these hair cells growing again. After receiving an injection of the drug in the ear, mice with cochleas damaged by loud white noise sprouted new hair cells. What’s more, these newborn cells partially restored the animals’ hearing, researchers led by Albert Edge of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston report in the Jan. 9 Neuron. A similar drug may one day reverse hearing loss in people. 

K. Mizutari et al/Neuron 2013

Laura Sanders is the neuroscience writer. She holds a Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Southern California.

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