Feb. 22 Research Roundup: Hearing Restoration, Depression, Marrow Transplants and Aging and MS

row of test tubes with dropper depositing pink liquid

Research is the cornerstone of new medications that treat numerous needs across the globe. Here’s a look at a few of the interesting research stories that crossed BioSpace’s slice of the Internet.

Can you hear me now?

In France, scientists used a gene therapy technique to successfully restore hearing in an adult mouse model of DFNB9 deafness, which is a hearing disorder that is one of the most frequent causes of congenital genetic deafness. Researchers from the Institut Pasteur in France, as well as leading universities from across the globe, collaborated on the restoration of hearing in the mouse model. According to a release from the Institut Pasteur, individuals with DFNB9 deafness are “profoundly deaf.” These individuals have a deficiency in the gene coding for otoferlin, which is a protein essential for transmitting sound information at the auditory sensory cell synapses. The researchers performed an intracochlear injection of the gene into a mouse model, which “restored auditory synapse function and hearing thresholds to a near-normal level.” The researchers published their findings in the journal PNAS. The success of the procedure opens up the potential for new approaches to using gene therapy in human patients with DFNB9.

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Getting to the marrow of the problem

Research conducted at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center has shown some potential in addressing the cognitive loss in older patients. By transplanting the bone marrow of young laboratory mice into old mice, researchers were able to prevent cognitive decline in the senior mice population. The use of the young marrow preserved memory and learning abilities in the older mice, according to the research. The findings support an emerging model that attributes cognitive decline, in part, to aging of blood cells, which are produced in bone marrow, the researchers said. According to the research, six months after the marrow transplant, the data showed the mice that received young bone marrow outperformed mice that received old bone marrow. They also outperformed a control group of old mice that did not get transplants.

“While prior studies have shown that introducing blood from young mice can reverse cognitive decline in old mice, it is not well understood how this happens,” Helen Goodridge, associate professor of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Cedars-Sinai and co-senior author of the study, said in a statement. “Our research suggests one answer lies in specific properties of youthful blood cells.”

A gut instinct for depression

In Europe, research has shown a link between gut microbes and depression. According to research posted in Gut Microbiota for Health, the researchers used gene sequencing to analyze fecal microbiota. According to the research, through the use of a questionnaire, microbial taxa were correlated with the participants’ quality of life and incidence of depression. Researchers found that Dialister and Coprococcus genera were reduced in people with depression. The researchers said that this study is a first approach to building a database that could be used to study studying the gut microbiome’s neuroactive potential, according to the report.

Depressed brains age faster

Scientists at Yale University discovered that depression physically changes an individual’s brain. The research shows that depression has an aging effect on the brain that leaves people susceptible to illnesses that are associated with old age. First reported by Quartz, the research found that of the study patients involved, the brains of those who have more severe signs of depression showed a lower synaptic density. A loss of synapses is typically associated with older people and often results in neurological disorders.

MS Hope?

According to a study reported by Neurology Today, early treatment of multiple sclerosis patients with natalizumab, fingolimod, or alemtuzumab is associated with a lower risk of progression to secondary progressive MS, compared to interferon beta or glatiramer acetate. Aggressive treatment of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis can reduce the chances of the disease moving into the secondary progressive MS phase, according to the report. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Additionally, the study found that no matter what type of disease-modifying therapy was used in patients with early signs of MS,” any kind of treatment was better than no treatment. The earlier the treatment was started, the better, according to the report.

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