A large screening program has identified several genes associated with age-related conditions including hearing loss, retinal degeneration, and osteoarthritis. The animal study, published in Nature Communications, may lead to studies of the equivalent human gene and help develop screening programs to identify the risk of developing an age-related condition many years before symptoms appear. Age is a risk factor for many conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hearing loss, dementia and others, but the genes that we carry also influence whether we are more or less susceptible to these. Not much is known about which genes influence age-related conditions, or how they do so. To explore this further, researchers from Medical Research Council (MRC) Harwell introduced new mutations at random positions in the genes of mice before they were born, and then monitored their health as they aged. If an age-related condition developed, the researchers investigated which particular gene in that mouse had been mutated. One gene identified in this way was Slc4a10. This was already known to be needed for eye function, but this new study linked defective Slc4a10 to age-related hearing loss for the first time. Identifying this gene and others related to late-onset conditions in mice could now prompt investigation of the corresponding genes in humans to ask if naturally-occurring mutations in them cause similar effects. In the future, screening people for defects in the genes identified could help to predict their chances of developing a particular condition, and the findings may one day inform treatment development or timing of interventions.
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