BOSTON, Feb 6: Around the world, around five in 100,000 people are living with Usher syndrome – a rare genetic disorder that causes deafness, disturbed balance and blindness.
But a new form of gene therapy could restore hearing in people with this condition.
So far, researchers have tested the technique in mice, but they hope that one day it could lead to a life-changing treatment for humans within three years.
The study comes from researchers at the Boston Children’s Hospital, who used a laboratory-made virus to deliver corrective DNA into the inner ear of mice.
The treated newborn mice were affected by Usher syndrome.
After the therapy, a number of the profoundly deaf animals could hear well enough to respond to whispered sounds.
Their sense of balance was also greatly improved.
‘Now, you can whisper, and they can hear you,’ said Dr Gwenaelle Geleoc, from Boston Children’s Hospital, who led the research.
Nineteen out of 25 mice heard sounds quieter than 80 decibels – about twice the normal volume of a human conversation.
And a few even picked up sounds as soft as 25-30 decibels, demonstrating a normal level of hearing.