GHP September 2016

52 | ghp September 2016 Research & Development Researchers Identify Gene Associated with Age-Related Hearing Loss Age is a risk factor for many conditions, including dia- betes, cardiovascular disease, hearing loss, dementia and others, but the genes that we carry also influence whether we are more or less susceptible to these. Not much is known about which genes influence age-re- lated conditions, or how they do so. To explore this further, researchers from MRC Harwell, a research facility based in Oxfordshire, introduced new mutations at random positions in the genes of mice before they were born, and then monitored their health as they aged. If an age-related condition devel- oped, the researchers investigated which particular gene in that mouse had been mutated. One gene identified in this way was Slc4a10. This was already known to be needed for eye function, but this new study linked defective Slc4a10 to age-related hearing loss for the first time. Identifying this gene and others related to late-onset conditions in mice could now prompt investigation of the same genes in humans to ask if naturally-occur- ring mutations in them cause similar effects. In future, screening people for defects in the genes identified could help to predict their chances of developing a particular condition, and the findings may one day in- form treatment development or timing of interventions. Lead researcher, Dr Paul Potter of MRC Harwell, said: “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. This is a first and vital step in developing new therapies.” Dr Lindsay Wilson, programme manager for genetics and genomics at the MRC, said: “As we get older, we have an increased risk of developing many conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hearing loss and dementia. 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.” Web Address: A large screening programme has identified several genes asso- ciated with age-related conditions including hearing loss, retinal degeneration and osteoarthritis. The animal study, published in Nature Communications opens in new window, may lead to studies of the equivalent human gene and help develop screen- ing programmes to identify the risk of developing an age-related condition many years before symptoms appear.