New study aims to uncover genetic factors for hearing loss

International collaboration a first step in laying groundwork for earlier diagnosis and treatment

PHOENIX, AZ AUGUST 29, 2006 Researchers at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), the House Ear Institute (HEI) and other organizations have initiated a study to identify the genes and genetic interactions involved in age-related hearing loss (presbycusis). The study, which was funded primarily by The Seaver Foundation, will use the latest state-of-the-art gene chip technology to uncover the genetic predisposition of presbycusis, a disorder thought to be caused by multiple genes, the environment and ethnicity. Affymetrix, a company specializing in tools for scientific research, is providing the micro-array technology necessary for processing the DNA samples in this study. Through an understanding of its molecular mechanisms, scientists hope to develop earlier diagnostics and ultimately prevent the disorder.

Presbycusis is the loss of hearing that gradually occurs in most individuals as they age. About 30-35 percent of adults between the ages of 65 and 75 years have a hearing loss. It is estimated that 40-50 percent of people 75 years and older have a hearing loss, according to the National Institutes of Health, and it often leads to isolation and depression. "This study will serve as a foundation for gene discoveries in other complex diseases and provides the groundwork for early diagnosis and treatment of age-related hearing loss," said Rick A. Friedman, M.D., Ph.D., the principal investigator of the study at House Ear Institute.

Researchers at TGen, working with their counterparts at the House Ear Institute, will utilize the Affymetrix technology to examine DNA markers 500,000 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) in high throughput fashion, which will provide them with the opportunity to define the genetic basis of this prevalent disorder. The study will evaluate nearly 2,000 patient samples collected at the Hereditary Deafness Laboratory at the University of Antwerp, Belgium. One of the short-term goals of the study is to create a screening chip to identify variations in specific genes that lead to presbycusis.

"This is a new era in medical research and our expertise in genetics will allow inroads to be made into this disorder," said Dr. Dietrich Stephan, head of TGen's Neurogenomics Division. "Although it has been known that genes play an important role in age-related hearing loss, the exact nature of these genes has not been investigated until now," said Guy Van Camp, Ph.D., University of Antwerp. "This project will put age-related hearing loss at the forefront of genetic research."

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About TGen
The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, is focused on developing earlier diagnostics and smarter treatments. Translational genomics research is a relatively new field employing innovative advances arising from the Human Genome Project and applying them to the development of diagnostics, prognostics and therapies for cancer, neurological disorders, diabetes and other complex diseases. TGen's research is based on personalized medicine and the institute plans to accomplish its goals through robust and disease-focused research. For more information, visit www.tgen.org.

About House Ear Institute
The House Ear Institute (HEI) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to advancing hearing science through research and education to improve quality of life. Established in 1946 by Howard P. House, M.D., as the Los Angeles Foundation of Otology, and later renamed for its founder, the House Ear Institute has been engaged in the scientific exploration of the auditory system from the ear canal to the cortex of the brain for 60 years. HEI scientists continue to explore the developing ear and ear diseases at the cell and molecular level, as well as the complex ear-brain interaction. They are also working to improve hearing aids and auditory implants, diagnostics, clinical treatments and intervention methods. For information on the House Ear Institute, please call (213) 483-4431 or visit the Web site at www.hei.org.

About the Hereditary Deafness Laboratory, University of Antwerp, Belgium
This research group, headed by Dr. Guy Van Camp, has localized and identified many genes for different forms of hereditary deafness over the last 10 years. Most of this work was based on tissues from large families, collected in Belgium and The Netherlands. Over the last 2 years, this laboratory has started with the analysis of complex forms of hearing impairment such as presbycusis and noise-induced hearing impairment. These types of hearing impairment are caused by a complex interplay between environmental factors, such as noise or exposure to toxic substances or medication, and genes that make people susceptible. The laboratory has developed new methodologies for the analysis of these diseases.

About Affymetrix
Affymetrix is a pioneer in creating breakthrough tools that are driving the genomic revolution. By applying the principles of semiconductor technology to the life sciences, Affymetrix develops and commercializes systems that enable scientists to improve quality of life. The Company's customers include pharmaceutical, biotechnology, agrichemical, diagnostics and consumer products companies as well as academic, government and other non-profit research institutes. Affymetrix offers an expanding portfolio of integrated products and services, including its integrated GeneChip brand platform, to address growing markets focused on understanding the relationship between genes and human health. Additional information on Affymetrix can be found at www.affymetrix.com.

Media Contacts:
Christa S. Nuber
House Ear Institute (HEI)
(213) 273-8027
newsmedia@hei.org

Amy Erickson
TGen
(602) 343-8522
aerickson@tgen.org


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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