Master Switch Gene

How is the Master Switch ‘Gene’ different from Old Hearing Machines?

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According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 8.5% of adults between the age-range 55 to 64 face major hearing problems, and the percentage increases with the age factor. Hearing aid technology has been helping several people and solving age-related hearing problems. However, despite many innovations, scientists were unable to tackle the problem of irreversible hearing loss. This loss is caused as the antibodies in the ears become irreversible which are essential for hearing purposes.

Catering to the need of the hour, Northwestern Medicine scientists have recently discovered a master gene that helps restore hearing problems. The study focuses on hair cells in the ear, which are called sensory cells and are responsible for clear hearing purposes. The uncovered gene TBX2 is also known as the ‘master regulator’ as it reprograms the ear cells. “We have overcome a major hurdle,” say scientists.

How does the old technology work?

Hearing aid technology is primarily used to help individuals who suffer from hearing losses caused due to the damage to the small sensory cells in the ear called hair cells. The normal hearing aid amplifies the sound vibrations entering the ear and the existing non-damaged hair cells pick up the sound signal. This signal is then sent to the brain for processing. This technology does help get clear sound signals with the help of surviving hair cells, however, it does not include dead or damaged cells. Moreover, it also does not amplify the signal to its maximum extent and this results in an ineffective hearing aid.

How will the master switch ‘Gene’ solve the problem?

The master ‘Gene’ helps the development of the hair cells in the ear. The cochlear hair cells in the human ear have two types-inner hair and outer hair and they play a significant role in the process of hearing. The inner cells pick up the sound vibration and the outer cells are responsible for amplifying the signal (according to the study on mice in the journal Nature).

The newly found TBX2 gene can be used as a switch. It will either be an inner cell or an outer cell. When the gene is expressed, it becomes an inner cell and when the gene is blocked, it becomes an outer cell. This reprogramming helps to restore or sometimes even recreate the cells needed for hearing. The process of developing a perfect gene is not completed yet. Scientists are finding different ways to find sustainable reprogrammed cells.

The master switch gene has the potential to revolutionize the hearing aid industry. This critical type of sound-sensitive cell helps in the treatment of the most common cause of deafness. The irreversible hearing loss can be cured with this invention. Scientists assure that it will be helpful for old-aged people suffering from major hearing losses. 

Also Read: EXPLAINED: Does COVID Vaccine cause Hearing Problems?



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