Weill Cornell Newsroom
NEW YORK and SAN FRANCISCO—December 2, 2014—Researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College and the Gladstone Institutes have found a way to prevent noise-induced hearing loss in a mouse using a simple chemical compound that is a precursor to vitamin B3. This discovery has important implications not only for preventing hearing loss, but also potentially for treating some aging-related conditions that are linked to the same protein.
Published today in Cell Metabolism, the researchers used the chemical nicotinamide riboside (NR) to protect the nerves that innervate the cochlea. The cochlea transmits sound information through these nerves to the spiral ganglion, which then passes along those messages to the brain. Exposure to loud noises damages the synapses connecting the nerves and the hair cells in the cochlea, resulting in noise-induced hearing loss.
The researchers set about trying to prevent this nerve damage by giving mice NR before or after exposing them to loud noises. NR was successful at preventing damage to the synaptic connections, avoiding both short-term and long-term hearing loss. What’s more, NR was equally effective regardless of whether it was given before or after the noise exposure.
"One of the major limitations in managing disorders of the inner ear, including hearing loss, is there are a very limited number of treatments options. This discovery identifies a unique pathway and a potential drug therapy to treat noise-induced hearing loss," says Dr. Kevin Brown, an associate professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and first author on the paper. Dr. Brown conducted the research while at Weill Cornell.