Cures for Deaf, Blind Mice Offer Glimmers of Early Hope for Humans

Zhen-Yi Chen, a hearing researcher at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, said he considers the findings a breakthrough for deaf humans as well.

"Before we really didn't know if this was doable, even in the animal model. Now we know that it is," he said.

But the study's authors were cautious in applying the findings to humans, noting that although the same genetic mutation is tied to hearing loss in mice and humans, the condition may be entirely different in the animals than it is in people.

Chen said if the approach proved effective in humans, it could represent an improvement over current approaches to treating hearing loss – wearable hearing aids and cochlear implants, neither of which restore hearing to normal levels.

Both of the studies were published today in the journal Neuron. Although they may be a giant leap for mousekind, researchers say it will be a while before the therapies can be tested, proven safe and used in people.

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