Stories tagged animal research

The headlines seem to be especially crazy these days, but this one really jumped out at me. So does the Minnesota Zoo have the coolest moose in the country, or what?

Feb
14
2005

Researchers at the University of Michigan have restored the hearing of deaf guinea pigs.

Hair cells in the cochlea of each ear convert sound waves into nerve signals. The cells are easily damaged by loud noises, aging, infections, and certain medications. And, once damaged, hair cells don't grow back. But the researchers used a virus to insert a gene into ear cells that made new cochlear hair cells grow.

During fetal development, the gene makes some cells in the ear into hair cells. In other ear cells, called supporting cells, the gene is inactive. But researchers were able to use the gene to convert existing supporting cells into hair cells.

First, they deafened the guinea pigs by destroying their hair cells with antibiotics. Four days later, they used a virus to insert the corrective gene and get new hair cells to grow. The researchers observed increases in the guinea pigs' brain activity when they exposed them to noises—proof that the new cells are working.

Now researchers are studying whether or not the animals can tell the difference between loud or soft noises, or noises of different frequencies. They're also studying animals deafened in other ways, older animals, and animals deaf for longer periods of time before treatment starts. It will probably be a decade or so before the technique can be tried on human patients.