New strategy to prevent hearing loss discovered

Updated: Jul 07, 2012, 15:18 PM IST

Washington: The protein AMPK, which protects cells during a lack of energy, plays a role in protecting sensory cells in the inner ear from permanent damage and helps maintain hearing after extreme noise exposure, a new study has found.

According to researchers from Germany and Canada, AMPK also activates a channel protein in the cell membrane that allows potassium to leave the cell and thereby prevents permanent to the ears.

This information could lead to new strategies and therapies to prevent and treat trauma resulting from extreme noise, especially in people with AMPK gene variants that may make them more vulnerable to hearing loss.

“Future research on the basis of the present study may lead to the development of novel strategies preventing noise-induced hearing loss or accelerating recovery from acoustic trauma,” Florian Lang, a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Physiology at the University of Tübingen, in Tubingen, Germany, said.

To make this discovery, Lang and colleagues compared two groups of mice. The first group was normal and the second lacked the AMPK protein.

Hearing of the mice was tested by measuring sound-induced brain activity. All mice were exposed to well-defined noise causing an acoustic trauma and leading to hearing impairment.

Prior to noise exposure, the hearing ability was similar in normal mice and mice lacking AMPK. After exposure, the hearing of the normal mice mostly recovered after two weeks, but the recovery of hearing in AMPK-deficient mice remained significantly impaired.

The study has been published in the FASEB Journal.