London: A gene that causes children to be
born deaf has been discovered which scientists say could help
in developing medicines to treat the condition in future.
The research conducted in The Netherlands found the gene,
called PTPRQ, which appears to play a role in the development
of the inner ear "hair cell" before the birth of the child.
A genetic fault here means that these cells will not form
properly or in sufficient numbers, leading to profound
deafness or extremely poor hearing, the BBC reported.
This can lead to problems throughout childhood, including
behavioural and developmental difficulties, and low academic
achievement, the researchers said.
According to them, there are now more than 60 known
locations in our DNA which can contain faulty genes
contributing to this form of deafness, although only half the
genes in these locations which actually cause the problem are
yet to be identified.
Dr Hannie Kremer, who led the research, said: "Our
approach is identifying more genes for congenital deafness.
"This knowledge will help improve treatments for
patients, genetic counselling, molecular diagnosis and the
development of advanced therapeutic strategies."
One child in 750 is born with severe hearing loss or
profound deafness and this study means parents with the
hereditary condition would be able to predict more accurately
the chances of passing it on to their children, the scientists
Dr Sohaila Rastan, at British charity Royal National
Institute for the Deaf (RNID) that funded the research, said:
"Knowledge of genes causing deafness tells us more about how
our hearing works.
"This research will help develop medicines that are
desperately needed to prevent deafness and restore hearing."
There are hopes that gene therapy will one day be able to
correct genetic defects linked to this type of deafness.