Gene therapy with electrical pulses spurs nerve growth

A deaf guinea pig's hearing improves when electrical signals from its cochlear implant (shown, left) are coupled with gene therapy to stimulate nerve cell regeneration in the inner ear.

UNSW Australia Biological Resources Imaging Laboratory and National Imaging Facility of Australia

Electrical current from a cochlear implant has guided corrective genetic material into inner ear cells and stimulated nerve regeneration in deaf guinea pigs. The treatment improved the animals’ hearing sensitivity and range, researchers report April 24 in Science Translational Medicine. The gene therapy technique, which does not use viruses that could induce immune reactions, holds promise for improving the hearing of people with cochlear implants. It may also have applications in deep brain stimulation, the scientists say.

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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