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Archive - Apr 16, 2009


MicroRNAs May Improve Hearing

The lack of certain critical microRNAs can result in deafness, according to findings published in the April 14 issue of PNAS. "The molecules we identified could be used as a molecular tool delivered directly into the ears of deaf people to induce regeneration of important sensory cells that would improve hearing," one of the reporting researchers said. "The molecules also could potentially help people with balance disorders related to inner ear function such as Meniere's disease." Approximately 36 million Americans suffer from some form of hearing loss. In many cases, the cause is the degeneration of special sensory cells in the inner ear called hair cells. Excessive noise, certain medications, aging, and disease can damage or destroy hair cells. Because humans are unable to replace lost hair cells, hearing declines as they are lost. The researches identified specific microRNAs that are critical to the survival of hair cells. [Press release]

New Nucleotide Discovered in Mammals; May Revolutionize Epigenetics

Scientists at Rockefeller University have discovered a new methylated nucleotide in mammals. This discovery may revolutionize the study of epigenetics--i.e., inheritance not governed strictly by the sequence of nucleotides in a gene. The new methylated nucleotide (5-hydroxymethylcytosine) had previously been observed only in bacterial viruses. The Rockefeller researchers report that the new nucleotide is stable and abundant in mouse and human brain. The results are reported online in Science on April 16. [Press release]