A new Tel Aviv University study solves a critical piece of the puzzle of human deafness by identifying the first group of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) in the auditory system.
“The research on long non-coding RNAs is crucial to understanding how gene expression and regulatory elements influence the auditory system,” says Prof. Karen Avraham, Vice Dean of TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine. “How do changes in these inheritable parts of the genome contribute to deafness? There is a need for new approaches and entry points to gene therapy. Knowing more about how genes are controlled may help devise strategies.”
Prof. Avraham led the study together with Dr. Igor Ulitsky of the Weizmann Institute of Science. The results were recently published in Scientific Reports.
As much as 98% of the human genome is “non-coding” — it does not code for protein. RNAs contained in this non-coding part act as regulatory molecules and have a large impact on gene expression: where in the body and when during development or adulthood genes are expressed. One type of these RNA molecules, long non-coding RNAs, has been linked to a wide range of diseases and inheritable conditions such as cancer and celiac disease.
“Ours is the first report describing lncRNAs on a comprehensive level in a model of human deafness. This work provides a resource to look further into some of the lncRNAs and study their exact function in the inner ear — a key first step towards a potential cure,” Prof. Avraham says.