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Genetic link to deafness found

A single gene may provide clues to the causes of some types of deafness, research suggests.

When the FGF20 gene was "knocked out" of mice, they appeared perfectly healthy but had absolutely no ability to hear.

In humans the gene has already been associated with inherited deafness in otherwise healthy families.

FGF20 codes for one of a family of proteins called fibroblast growth factors. The molecules play key roles in embryonic development, tissue maintenance and wound healing.

Disabling the gene caused a loss of outer hair cells, a special sensory cell in the inner ear responsible for amplifying sound.

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