April 14, 2009

Hearing loss studies find new genetic link

Parallel studies in mice and humans by Spanish and British scientists have found a new kind of genes -- micro RNAs -- are linked to progressive hearing loss.

The researchers said their findings provide important new genetic understanding of a condition that's common in humans yet remains poorly understood.

The Spanish scientists from the Hospital Ramon Cajal in Madrid followed families who showed hearing loss. The second team, led by British researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, examined a new line of mice that showed progressive hearing loss from an early age.

The two groups shared their emerging data and sequenced every gene in the equivalent genomic regions in human and mouse identified as implicated in hearing loss. The results from each study found a mutation in a microRNA gene called miR-96 was associated with the hearing loss.

We know of a number of genes involved in deafness in humans and mice but, to our great surprise, this was one of a new class of genes called microRNAs, said Professor Miguel Angel Moreno-Pelayo, senior author of the Spanish study.

Both studies are reported in the journal Nature Genetics.