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Sea Anemone Could Lead To Hearing Restoration

this article reprinted from ASHA.org

Proteins produced by sea anemones could be successful in repairing damaged hearing hair cells in mice, according to a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

This study is the first to test the ability of anemones’ secreted repair proteins (RPs) to restore hearing in mammals.

Sea anemones produce RPs that restore their own hearing hair bundles, which they use to sense nearby animals they can sting. Fighting with prey can disorganize the structure of the hairs, but anemones are able to repair themselves in a matter of hours.

A previous study by the paper’s lead author, researcher Glen Watson of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, demonstrated the ability of RPs to help recover damaged hair cells in blind cavefish.

Watson and his team extracted organs of Corti—which house the hair bundles—from the cochlea of mouse pups and cultured them on microscope-slide cover slips. The researchers exposed the slips for 15 minutes to either a solution containing a healthy dose of calcium or a solution without calcium; the latter purposefully caused the hair bundle cells to become disorganized.

Next, the team exposed each slip to one of two other solutions—with the anemone RPs or without—for an hour. They then assigned scores of 0 to 6 to the level of bundle organization. The originally damaged bundles treated with the RPs scored an average of 5.1, while the control bundles without damage averaged 5.9. The bundles that had been damaged but not treated with RPs averaged 2.2.

“These results indicate that anemone-derived RPs assist in restoring normal function and structure of experimentally traumatized hair cells of the mouse cochlea,” the authors note.

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