An experiment performed recently by Glen Watson, a cell biologist at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, finds an association between sea anemone proteins and reversal of deafness in mice. The proteins may help reorganize damaged hair cells inside the mouse ear’s corti.
Watson works in hearing restoration and noted in previous studies how anemone proteins worked to reorganize anemones’ own damaged hair cells used for hearing. In this recent experiment, he isolated the healing proteins and first applied them to cave fish. This blind fish also repairs its own hair cell bundles, but it usually takes more than a week. When Watson applied the anemone protein, however, the repair happened in just over an hour.
In the next phase of the experiment, Watson applied the protein mixture to damaged hair bundles from mice pups. He compared the treated hair cells to a control group of healthy corti hair cell bundles and untreated damaged tissue. Based on a score of 0 to 6, the protein-treated hairs scored an average of 5.1. The damaged control group scored only an average of 2.2, and the healthy control group 5.9, leading researchers to believe that the proteins played a role in restoring significant hearing.
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Shelley D. Hutchins is content editor/producer for The ASHA Leader. email@example.com