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Study uses genetic patch to treat deafness

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A pioneering study could pave the way to solving a certain sort of deafness, researchers have said.

Scientists based at the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in Chicago, USA, have used a 'genetic patch' during experiments with mice and found that certain defects can be corrected.

While it doesn't yet solve any deafness problems for current patients, it has been described as "encouraging", and may have a big impact on wearers of digital hearing aids in future.

Usher syndrome causes problems with people's genetic codes which, in turn, leads to problems with hearing, sight and balance but, using a small strip of genetic material, researchers were able to reverse these problems.

The study was published in the journal Nature Medicine and one of the researchers involved, Michelle Hastings, told the BBC that the team never expected to see such strong results right away.

"It was a surprising result that we could treat mice right after they are born and have such a profound effect," she said.

However, there are fears that the patch needs to be in place with humans during early stages of development, i.e. during the time they are in the womb.

As humans spend much longer here than mice, treatment may need to take place before the birth occurs.

Dr Ralph Holme, head of biomedical research at Action on Hearing Loss, told the news provider that much more research is needed, although he also said that initial results were "encouraging".

"More research is now needed to understand how this new therapy could be used to treat this particular type of Usher Syndrome in humans," he added.

What it does represent, is a small step in the right direction, which could lead to a major advancement is how hearing loss is treated.

In the meantime, if you feel as though you may be in need of a solution, then you can always call in for a free hearing test at Leightons.

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