- NATURE PUBLISHING GROUP
Although numerous causative genes for hereditary hearing loss have been identified, there are no fundamental treatments for this condition. Herein, we describe a novel potential treatment for genetic hearing loss. Because mutations or deletions in the connexin (Cx) genes are common causes of profound congenital hearing loss in both humans and mice, we investigated whether gene supplementation therapy using the wild-type Cx gene could cure hearing loss. We first generated inner ear-specific connexin 30 (Cx30)-deficient mice via the transuterine transfer of Cx30-targeted short hairpin RNA (shRNA-Cx30) into otocysts. The inner ear-specific Cx30-deficient mice mimicked homozygous Cx30-deficient mice both histologically and physiologically. Subsequently, we cotransfected the shRNA-Cx30 and the wild-type Cx30 gene. The cotransfected mice exhibited Cx30 expression in the cochleae and displayed normal auditory functions. Next, we performed the transuterine transfer of the wild-type Cx30 gene into the otocysts of homozygous Cx30-deficient mice, thereby rescuing the lack of Cx30 expression in the cochleae and restoring auditory functioning. These results demonstrate that supplementation therapy with wild-type genes can restore postnatal auditory functioning. Moreover, this is the first report to show that Cx-related genetic hearing loss is treatable by in vivo gene therapy.
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