Rodents Unexpectedly Gain Superpowers

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Rodents Unexpectedly Gain Superpowers

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  • Kiara Fabbri

    Written by: Kiara Fabbri Multimedia Journalist

  • Justyn Newman

    Fact-Checked by Justyn Newman Head Content Manager

Scientists from Michigan Medicine’s Kresge Hearing Research Institute have successfully created mice with supranormal hearing, providing new insights into the mechanisms of hearing loss in humans. This research offers promising potential for future therapies to improve hearing in humans.

Researchers at the Kresge Hearing Research Institute have been exploring the effects of neurotrophic factor neurotrophin-3 (Ntf3) on auditory synapses in the inner ear. Their previous studies demonstrated that increasing Ntf3 levels could help mice recover from acoustic trauma and enhance hearing in middle-aged mice. The latest study, however, is the first to use this approach on young, healthy mice, resulting in enhanced auditory processing capabilities beyond normal levels.

“We knew that providing Ntf3 to the inner ear in young mice increased the number of synapses between inner hair cells and auditory neurons, but we did not know what having more synapses would do to hearing,” said Gabriel Corfas, Ph.D., director of the Kresge Institute and lead researcher on the project.

“This suggests that this molecule has the potential to improve hearing in humans in similar situations. The new results indicate that regenerating synapses or increasing their numbers will improve their auditory processing” Corfas explained.

The study’s implications extend beyond hearing loss. As Corfas noted, “Some neurodegenerative disorders also start with the loss of synapses in the brain. Therefore, the lessons from the studies in the inner ear could help in finding new therapies for some of these devastating diseases.”

While these results are encouraging, more research is required to translate these findings into human applications. However, this study sheds new light on the cause of hidden hearing loss and opens exciting possibilities for future treatments.

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