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U of Miami Medicine Wins $3M NIH Grant for Hearing Loss Genetics Research

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) — The University of Miami School of Medicine this week announced that it has been awarded a $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue a research program applying genomics to hearing loss screening and treatment.

The work is being conducted by university researcher Xue Zhong Liu and colleagues, who have developed a genomic variant detection platform and a phenotypic database of roughly 3,000 DNA samples from individuals from families with non-syndromic hearing loss (NSHL) — a form of hearing impairment that is not associated with other signs and symptoms.

In earlier NIH-funded studies, the scientists identified over 18 potential new genes linked to NSHL, created animal models for human hearing loss, and generated human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from patients with genetic deafness, according to the grant's abstract.

With the latest funding, the team aims to expand their database, identify and characterize additional NSHL-related genes, evaluate the impact of genomic testing on patients with NSHL, and conduct preclinical experiments of CRISPR-Cas9-based treatments for the condition in iPSCs and mouse models.

"Recent breakthroughs in genetic screening, gene or cell-based therapeutics, and gene editing for the inner ear can lead to novel therapies for multiple classes of hereditary hearing loss," Liu said in a statement. "Together with our program for genetic hearing loss, these tools and strategies will create a clear path to clinical treatment and accelerate the advent of a new era of personalized medicine for hereditary hearing loss."