Although researchers and medical professionals have carried out extensive investigations and studies into how our hearing works, it seems that specific molecular details remain ambiguous. However, through all of the analysis, results can often reveal breakthroughs and surprising factors in areas that have not been greatly explored.
A recent study from the University of Maryland has done just that, unearthed groundbreaking evidence on a crucial protein that helps hearing to work1.Below we explore their findings.
What is CIB2?
Around five years ago, it was discovered by researchers at the University of Maryland, School of Medicine, that the molecule calcium and integrin-binding protein 2 (CIB2) was involved in and played a major role in the hearing process. The protein is vital for the structure of stereocilia – the microscope parts that sit on top of sensory hair cells in the inner ear.
Before the latest study was released, researchers had analysed CIB2 in mice, flies, zebrafish and humans. However, until now, no correlation had been found connecting CIB2 and our ability to hear.
How did the study work?
The subjects used were mice, who didn't possess the CIB2 protein, along with mice who had been inserted with the CIB2 gene mutation. It was discovered that the CIB2 protein was unable to connect with the transmembrane channel-like proteins 1 and 2 (TMC1/2), when the mice had been inserted with the human mutation, compared to when they didn't possess the protein. Both the TMC1 and TMC2 proteins are required for the normal function of cochlear hair cells and play a crucial part in the process of converting sounds we hear into the electrical signals to our brains, also known as mechanotransduction.
Those with this mutation do not have the ability to transform soundwaves into the signals our brain needs to interpret and pass on, thus causing deafness. Therefore, the mice with the mutation mentioned were also without hearing.
What does this mean?
Gregory Frolenkov, the study's co-senior author noted, "This is a big step in determining the identity of key components of the molecular machinery that converts sound waves into electronic signals in the inner ear."
The new findings are now paving the way for further research into additional molecules which may also play a role in the hearing process along with therapies and treatments for CIB2-related conditions.
A reported one in six Australians live with some form of hearing loss, with regular studies being conducted into one day finding a potential cure. Until then, results like this can help shape the future of treatments for those dealing with a cognitive deprivation.
If you or a loved one is concerned about hearing abilities, get in touch with our expert team here at Audio Clinic. With no cost* hearing tests available for those over the age of 26, it's a great step to getting your hearing back on track. Call us on 1800 940 984 or click here to book.
1The University of Maryland, School of Medicine, UM SOM Study Announces Breakthrough in Understanding Hearing Loss. Accessed August 2017.