Action on Hearing Loss Logo
    Total results:
    Search
      Total results:

      Micromanaging the inner ear

      We’re funding new research at King’s College London to understand more about a gene called MIR96. Mutations in MIR96 cause hearing loss, and we already know that it is involved in ensuring that the sound-sensing cells in the inner ear form correctly. Tracey Pollard, from our Biomedical Research team, tells us more about this new project.

      By: Dr Tracey Pollard | 20 August 2018

      Usually, when we talk about genes, we mean strings of DNA that contain the recipes to make proteins. However, there are other genes, known as ‘micro-RNAs’ are genes that control the activity of thousands of other genes. This might mean they turn on genes, so that they start to produce protein, turn them up or down, so they produce more or less protein, or switch them off, so they stop producing protein altogether. In doing so, microRNAs can ‘micromanage’ the activity of whole cells and even organs, ensuring that they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing in the body. If you have a mutation in one of these genes, it is likely to lead to disease or disability.

      microRNAs in the ear

      There are several microRNA genes that are involved in hearing, but one of the most important is MIR96, or microRNA-96. We already know that MIR96 is involved in ensuring that the sound-sensing cells, the hair cells, form correctly in the inner ear. Mutations in MIR96 cause hearing loss in people, especially hearing loss that gets worse over time; they are likely to interfere with how the hair cells work, or are maintained throughout life, in some way. What we don’t know is how MIR96 controls this process, what genes it controls, and how the mutations disrupt its normal activity. And that’s what this new project is all about.

      What is the aim of the new research project?

      We’re funding Dr Morag Lewis, at King’s College London, to carry out research into this area. The main aim of her project is to study mice, which have been genetically engineered to have the same mutations in the microRNA-96 gene as are seen in people with hearing loss. These mice provide a good model for studying the changes that these mutations cause in the inner ear, and the hair cells. Knowing more about these changes, and the genes and processes involved, could ultimately help to develop treatments for hearing loss.

      Micromanging the inner ear

      How will she do this?

      Morag will study the changes caused by mutations in the microRNA-96 gene in a number of ways. She will measure the hearing of these mice by measuring the electrical activity of the hearing part of the brain, a test which can also be used in people with hearing loss. She will also examine the inner ears of these mice in fine detail using a microscope. Morag aims to better understand how the hair cells and their associated nerve cells are affected by these mutations.

      She will also measure the activity of every single gene in the body (the genome) to discover what and how gene activity has changed in the inner ears of these mice. This will help her to explore how genes involved in hearing interact with each other, to discover new genes involved in hearing, and identify genes whose activity could be targeted by drugs to treat hearing loss.

      Why does this research matter?

      We hope that this research will benefit people with hearing loss by:

      • Improving our understanding of what can go wrong in the inner ear and how that affects hearing. This will help us develop appropriate drug treatments for different types of hearing loss.
      • Discovering new genes involved in hearing, so that people who have hearing loss due to mutations in these genes will be able to find out the reason for their hearing loss. This is very helpful for patients and their families.
      • Identifying genes whose activity can be targeted by drugs to prevent hearing loss or restore hearing. To do that, we need to know which genes are important for hearing and how their activity needs to be changed by the drugs.

      Find out more

      We depend on your donations so we can fund the best hearing and tinnitus research around the world. Donate today and help us continue our vital work into hearing treatments, so that people can live life to the full again.

      You can find out more about the research we’re funding in our biomedical research section.

      If you’re interested in finding out more about our research, sign up to receive our Soundbite newsletter. It’s a monthly email, filled with the latest news about hearing and tinnitus research.

      Recent Posts

      EE partnership brings unbeatable packages

      For the first time ever, selected mobile phones with EE Pay As You Go plans, tailored for people who are deaf or have hearing loss, are available from Action on Hearing Loss.

      By: Brian Burns
      17 October 2018

      REGAIN update on the progress so far and a further opportunity for people with hearing loss to take part in the trial

      A team of researchers and clinicians at UCL’s Ear Institute and the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital are delighted to announce that the REGAIN trial is approaching its first anniversary and are continuing to recruit people with hearing loss to participate in a ground breaking clinical trial to test the safety and efficacy of a new drug that aims to treat sensorineural hearing loss. The criteria for eligibility to participate in the trial has recently been broadened to include participants with hearing loss of up to 20 years duration (see below for further information).

      By: REGAIN
      16 October 2018

      Preventing hearing loss: the search for treatments

      Medicines like aminoglycoside antibiotics or cisplatin are used to combat life-threatening infections and cancer, respectively, but their use may come at the price of someone’s hearing. Several treatments to prevent the loss of hearing caused by these medicines are currently being developed. Our Translational Research Manager, Dr Carina Santos, tells us more.

      By: Dr Carina Santos
      12 October 2018

      Shining a light on the cochlea

      We fund research across the globe into treatments for hearing loss and tinnitus. One of our newest projects, at the Bionics Institute in Australia, is investigating if we can improve how well cochlear implants work using light.

      By: Dr Tracey Pollard
      11 October 2018

      Recent Posts

      EE partnership brings unbeatable packages

      For the first time ever, selected mobile phones with EE Pay As You Go plans, tailored for people who are deaf or have hearing loss, are available from Action on Hearing Loss.

      By: Brian Burns
      17 October 2018

      REGAIN update on the progress so far and a further opportunity for people with hearing loss to take part in the trial

      A team of researchers and clinicians at UCL’s Ear Institute and the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital are delighted to announce that the REGAIN trial is approaching its first anniversary and are continuing to recruit people with hearing loss to participate in a ground breaking clinical trial to test the safety and efficacy of a new drug that aims to treat sensorineural hearing loss. The criteria for eligibility to participate in the trial has recently been broadened to include participants with hearing loss of up to 20 years duration (see below for further information).

      By: REGAIN
      16 October 2018

      Preventing hearing loss: the search for treatments

      Medicines like aminoglycoside antibiotics or cisplatin are used to combat life-threatening infections and cancer, respectively, but their use may come at the price of someone’s hearing. Several treatments to prevent the loss of hearing caused by these medicines are currently being developed. Our Translational Research Manager, Dr Carina Santos, tells us more.

      By: Dr Carina Santos
      12 October 2018

      Shining a light on the cochlea

      We fund research across the globe into treatments for hearing loss and tinnitus. One of our newest projects, at the Bionics Institute in Australia, is investigating if we can improve how well cochlear implants work using light.

      By: Dr Tracey Pollard
      11 October 2018

      More like this

      We're really proud of everyone who's a part of Action on Hearing Loss, and hope you'll feel inspired to become a part of our community.​

      We campaign for changes that make life better for people who are confronting deafness, tinnitus and hearing loss.

      Our ears are our organs of hearing and balance. They have three parts: the outer, middle and inner ear.