Scientists Find Deafness Gene Through Mutant Mice

Scientists in Hong Kong and Britain have discovered a gene responsible for hearing, a breakthrough that could eventually lead to a cure for congenital deafness. The scientists worked for 12 years on the project, eventually tracing deafness in mutant yellow mice back to a defective gene, said the project's lead scientist, Kathryn Cheah from the University of Hong Kong. The master gene, called Sox2, is responsible for the development of hair cells and supporting cells in the inner ear that enable hearing, the Hong Kong scientists and teams at Britain's Medical Research Council and University of Nottingham found. Any mutation or disruption in the gene leads to hearing loss and balance problems in mice, they found. Ears of mice are very similar to those in humans and such findings on the rodent can be applied to humans, who suffer loss of hearing when hair cells in their inner ears die, Cheah said.

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