Hearing loss affects countless consumers as they enter into older age, and previous studies have warned about how the condition can lead to premature death.
Now, researchers from University College London have found that a gene in fruit flies could be the key to treating hearing loss for older consumers. Because of how similar fruit flies’ auditory processing is to humans, these advances could greatly benefit consumers with hearing loss.
“While many studies have been conducted into the hearing function of fruit flies, ours is the first to look at the mechanistic and molecular detail of their auditory life course,” said researcher Joerg Albert.
“Our twin discoveries that fruit flies experience age-related hearing loss and that their prior auditory health is controlled by a particular set of genes, is a significant breakthrough. The fact that these genes are conserved in humans will also help to focus future clinical research in humans and thereby accelerate the discovery of novel pharmacological or gene-therapeutic strategies.”
Treating hearing loss
Fruit flies were chosen for the study because of how similar they are biologically to humans. During this study, the researchers found that fruit flies experience hearing loss as they age much in the same way that humans do.
In learning that, the next portion of the study involved the researchers retracing their steps. They sought to discover if there was any genetic indicator that could have prompted them to know that hearing loss was likely in the fruit flies.
They discovered that the fruit flies had homeostasis genes, which are often responsible for picking up on sound and overall sensitivity in the ear. Knowing that, the researchers then got to work altering the gene expression, by making the genes either more or less prominent in the fruit flies, to determine if that affected their hearing loss.
Ultimately, the researchers learned that manipulating the genes in this way was helpful in treating hearing loss for the fruit flies. Their findings from this study could help spur future treatment plans, and they could be the key to improving hearing loss treatment in the future.
“Based on our findings from [the fruit flies], we have already started a follow-up drug discovery project designed to fast-track novel treatments for human [age-related hearing loss],” Albert explained.