Lets play a game.
Think of a human disease. Any disease. Viral, bacterial, genetic, acquired, anything.
Im pretty sure that no matter what disease you just thought of, there is a scientist, somewhere, trying to use a virus to cure/treat that disease.
As I was doing my rounds on PubMed, looking for cool new research, I stumbled upon this paper:
I couldnt find this article online, so I searched PubMed for more info on using GMO viruses to treat deafness.
NOH MAH GAWD. There are SO MANY papers! A handful:
- Cochlear implants and ex vivo BDNF gene therapy protect spiral ganglion neurons.
- Auditory hair cell replacement and hearing improvement by Atoh1 gene therapy in deaf mammals.
- Restoration of hearing in the VGLUT3 knockout mouse using virally mediated gene therapy.
- Adeno-associated virus-mediated gene delivery into the scala media of the normal and deafened adult mouse ear.
- Inner ear gene transfection in neonatal mice using adeno-associated viral vector: a comparison of two approaches.
There are countless ways one can go deaf-- simply aging, damage, drugs, infections, genes (and lots of different genes), and there are now, apparently, countless different ways scientists are approaching treating deafness with viruses.
And they are already on top of the main questions one has to address when using GMO viruses-- What virus to use, what viral genome to use, what genes to deliver, how to deliver them (apparently a huge issue when dealing with the ear and getting the therapeutic viruses to the right cells), how to get the therapeutic proteins expressed, and of course all the relevant cell lines and animal models and surgical procedures need to be optimized to be able to ask those questions in the first place.
Scientists are working their butts off on this, and have been for over a decade, making really cool progress! Nothing has made it into humans yet (I dont think) but like a lot of viral based gene therapy, it is steadily moving into that direction.
Holy crap-- Imagine a world where t the first signs of hearing loss, older folks (or younger folks who went to too many concerts without ear protection) could go in for a quick surgery + squirt of viruses to regrow some of those damaged hair cells in your ears. Turning treatment of hearing loss into something as common and routine as cataract surgery.
Imagine a world where your baby is at risk for going deaf due to a genetic quirk. When Baby is born, its physicians do a quick genetic screen, and if Baby is a genetic risk, a quick surgery to squirt some GMO virus into Babys ears. No deaf Baby.
Go team science!
You have a medical condition that ails you?
Yes-- there's a virus for that.
It's spelled "babby".
What also warrants more investigation is infectious causes of deafness. Word at my institution is that some mouse models of deafness might actually be a genetic model of hearing failure, but a genetic model of infection -> hearing failure [short story - keep the mice in a germ free environment and your phenotype gets weaker/goes away]. Still an interesting and pretty damn important thing to study.
Really interesting. I wonder if this becomes a therapy, then at some point there will actually be a fix for tinnitus and the ringing in my ears will finally stop.