Aging, environmental factors, injuries, and diseases are all major causes of hearing loss. But hereditary hearing loss is just as important and widespread. Among children who have hearing loss, genes are the culprit in at least half of the cases.
Medical science is still working on explaining how genetic (hereditary) hearing loss happens.
The Role of the FAM65B Gene
Scientists have found that the FAM65B gene has a huge role in allowing us to hear. This is true for humans and animals alike.
The first major breakthrough regarding the role of the FAM65B gene came from studying a large Turkish family. Many family members had congenital hearing loss in both ears. Studying this family’s genetics led to the conclusion that mutations in the FAM65B gene can cause hearing loss.
But How Do Genes Impact Our Hearing?
Hearing requires a sequence of proteins which help convert sound to nerve impulses in our inner ear. Various genes are responsible for producing these proteins. Thus, if there is a problem with any of these genes, the inner ear cannot do its job.
To test the role of the FAM65B gene in the hearing process, scientists also experimented on zebrafish. By injecting zebrafish larvae with mutations of this gene, scientists caused deafness. So they found that the FAM65B gene is crucial to hearing. Additionally, they opened up the possibility of manipulating or replacing this gene.
Why Is This Discovery Important?
In the future, gene therapy could be the solution to curing hearing loss.
But for now, it’s important to keep track of the functions of every gene. After all, people with hearing loss generally want to know whether they will pass it on to their children, and genetic counseling is the best way to find out.