WASHINGTON (dpa-AFX) - The quest to find the protein in the ear that converts sound into brain signals has remained a 'holy grail' that scientists have been looking for. However, after decades of research, scientists at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, have finally managed to pin down the elusive protein.
According to the scientists, a protein called TMHS, which is a component of the so-called mechanotransduction channels in the ear, is responsible for converting the signals from mechanical sound waves into electrical impulses that run along nerve fibers to areas in the brain where they are interpreted as sound.
The laboratory studies revealed that when the TMHS protein was missing in mice, the electrical signals were not sent to their brains and they did not perceive sound. But by placing functional TMHS into the sensory cells for sound perception of newborn deaf mice, the scientists were able to restore their function.
Since, essentially all mammals today share the same form of inner ear, the breakthrough finding suggests a new gene therapy approach to some forms of deafness, add the researchers.
Though many of the genes implicated in deafness have been identified, it was not known how these genes accounted for the various forms of hearing loss. But with the discovery of the relevance of TMHS, the picture is becoming clearer, say the researchers.
Copyright RTT News/dpa-AFX