UK scientists reverse hearing loss in mice

Researchers from King’s College London boosted hearing in mice by using an enzyme to activate a previously defunct gene

White headphones are plugged into a phone with an orange display that sits next to a laptop keyboard
Pixabay/ Firmbee

Scientists from King’s College London have described how they successfully reversed hearing loss in mice in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The mice had their hearing restored in the low and middle frequency range after a defective Spns2 gene was activated using an enzyme.

Mice were initially bred with the defective gene, with the gene activated at different ages.

Improvements in hearing were found to be most marked when the gene was activated at a young age.

Senior author, Professor Karen Steel, of The Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London, shared that degenerative diseases – such as progressive hearing loss – are often thought to be irreversible.

“We have shown that at least one type of inner ear dysfunction can be reversed,” she said.

“We used a genetic method to show this reversal as a proof-of-concept in mice, but the positive results should encourage research into methods like gene therapy or drugs to reactivate hearing in people with a similar type of hearing loss,” Steel highlighted.

First author, Dr Elisa Martelletti, also of the IoPPN, shared that seeing the once-deaf mice respond to sounds was “truly thrilling.”

“It was a pivotal moment, demonstrating the tangible potential to reverse hearing loss caused by defective genes,” she said.