The discoveries could save the hearing of the elderly

The discoveries could save the hearing of the elderly

Loss of cholesterol impairs hearing

Age-related loss of cholesterol in hair cells is an important cause of decreased cell motility and thus hearing loss. A group of Argentine researchers were curious to know if this process could be reversed by replacing lost cholesterol.

Researchers associated with the University of Buenos Aires and the University of Cordoba conducted experiments on mice to see if the hypothesis was correct.

The result is the same Pioneering study Published in the scientific journal PLoS Biology.

Phytosterols are a possible solution

Since cholesterol is unable to cross the so-called blood-brain barrier and enter the brain from the blood, they had to use cholesterol-like substances from plants that have similar properties.

These substances are called phytosterols. Just like cholesterol, they are biological building blocks in cell membranes and help maintain their elasticity. Phytosterols are also found in a number of over-the-counter products.

The first phase of the study involved measuring the concentration in hair cells of the enzyme CYP46A1, which is responsible for most of the breakdown of cholesterol in the brain. Of course, the researchers found that the concentration of this enzyme was higher in the older mice. The amount of cholesterol in the inner ear of older mice was similarly lower.

Preventing hearing loss in a mouse study

The next step was to establish causation. The researchers did this by inducing hearing loss in young mice by overactivating the CYP46A1 enzyme using a drug commonly used to treat HIV and AIDS.

Finally, the researchers wanted to know whether this process could be reversed by counteracting the enzymatic breakdown of cholesterol in young mice with artificial hearing loss.

Then, they gave young mice a combination of a CYP46A1-inducing drug and phytosterols that can enter the brain and replace the lost cholesterol. As expected, this improved the function of the mice’s hair cells. In other words, the researchers succeeded in reversing the hearing loss.

“The results are very promising, as this is the first time that treatment with phytosterols has been shown to prevent or treat hearing loss,” the researchers wrote.

However, it is necessary to repeat the experiments in older mice and humans before any definitive conclusions can be drawn.

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Dalila Awolowo

Dalila Awolowo

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