Zebrafish may help unlock the genetics of human deafness

Photo credit: Oregon State University licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This article in the current issue of Acoustics Today, a publication of the Acoustical Society of America, discusses how the zebrafish, a freshwater minnow in Southeast Asia, provides a biological system that can be studied to understand the genetics of human deafness. Zebrafish have about 70% of the same genes that humans do, and are an ideal research animal because they lay hundreds of eggs, develop quickly, and are transparent for the first week of life. That allows ear development to be seen without surgery. Perhaps most importantly, zebrafish have a remarkable ability to regenerate the hair cells in their ears, which offers hope of hearing restoration in those who have lost their hearing.

I’m not sure it’s appropriate to say that “I’m not holding my breath” when discussing a fish used for biological research, but I’m not holding my breath waiting for a cure for noise-induced hearing loss. The human inner ear is well protected by dense bone that makes surgical access difficult, and by a blood-labyrinth barrier that also makes drug delivery difficult.

I’m more interested in prevention of noise-induced auditory disorders.

And that’s cheap and easy: avoid exposure to loud sounds, leave the noisy environment, or use hearing protection.

Because if it sounds loud, it’s too loud, and your auditory health is at risk.


Share this article:

Article Categories

Search Articles