Hearing deficits can cause sensory impairment and a decrease in the quality of life. Although the mechanisms involved have yet to be elucidated, evidence suggests that a subset of connexins play a critical role in hearing. Remarkably, 1:1000 children will be born with congenital deafness, 50% of which will be due to Cx26 or Cx30 gene mutations. Consequently, it is now standard operating procedure in developed countries to genetically screen these children for Cx26 or Cx30 gene mutations. How connexin gene mutations cause hearing loss remains controversial as earlier studies supporting a role for connexins in recycling potassium through the epithelial and connective tissue network of the Organ of Corti back to the endolymph have been challenged. Moreover, the role of auditory track connexins in noise-induced and age-related hearing loss remain poorly understood. Together with Dr. Brian Allman at the University of Western Ontario, we are investigating the scope of auditory track connexins involved in hearing and the underlying mechanisms.
J.M. Abitbol, J.J. Kelly, K. Barr, A.L. Schormans, D.W. Laird and B.L Allman (2016) "Differential effects of pannexins on noise-induced hearing loss" Biochemical Journal 473: 4665-4680.
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