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Researchers link genes to age-related hearing loss

Two genes were found to affect auditory abilities, one of which was not previously known.

By Stephen Feller
Researchers link genes to age-related hearing loss
Researchers in England linked a gene to age-related hearing issues that previously had not been identified as connected to the condition. Photo by Alexander Raths/Shutterstock

LONDON, Aug. 18 (UPI) -- While not many of them are known, scientists say research into the genetic causes of aging-related conditions could help identify at-risk people for early treatment and possible prevention.

Scientists in England identified a gene that, when mutated, may play a role in the development of age-related hearing problems, which they anticipate could lead to new treatments for the condition.

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"As we get older, we have an increased risk of developing many conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hearing loss and dementia," Dr. Lindsay Wilson, program manage for genetics and genomics at the Medical Research Council, said in a press release.

"The genes that we carry can influence this, but it is hard to know which do, or how. This study increases our understanding of the genes related to ageing and ill-health and may ultimately help us to identify new treatments," she said.

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For the study, published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers induced random mutations to the genes of mice before they were born, monitoring them as they aged and investigating genes involved with any age-related condition that developed.

Among 27 age-related mutations investigated by the researchers, two were linked to age-related auditory conditions -- Slc4a7 and Slc4a10, both of which are also linked to sight-related conditions, and one of which was not previously known as a risk factor.

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"Our study is an important springboard for a better understanding of which genes in humans are involved in age-related conditions, and how changes in those genes influence this," said Dr. Potter, a researcher at the Medical Research Council. "This is a first and vital step in developing new therapies."

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