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The Chemical Leupeptin Protects Against Noise-Induced Hearing Loss In Animal Model, UB Hearing Researchers Show

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Researchers in the University at Buffalo Center for Hearing and Deafness have shown for the first time that a compound called leupeptin may help protect against the noise-induced hearing loss caused by living in noisy industrialized societies.

Using an animal model, researchers found that treating the inner ear with leupeptin before exposure to high-level noise, comparable to a jet engine, reduced the loss of sensory hair cells by 60 percent. Hair cells convert sound waves into electrical impulses that are sent to the brain.

Leupeptin, however, did not protect against the damaging effects of the anti-cancer drug carboplatin that can cause deafness in treated patients.

Results of the study, lead by Richard J. Salvi, Ph.D., professor of communicative disorders and sciences in UB's College of Arts and Sciences and co-director of the center, appear in the current issue (Vol. 10, No. 4) of NeuroReport.

"The results are very exciting for two reasons," Salvi said. "First, they provide clues to the cellular events that lead to sensory-cell death in the inner ear. Second, they suggest a potential drug-therapy approach to protecting the ear against sound damage."

Salvi and his colleagues at UB and his collaborators, Alfred Stracher, Ph.D., and Abraham Shulman, Ph.D., both at the SUNY Health Science Center at Brooklyn, have been investigating ways to protect the auditory system from damage via noise and ototoxic drugs, common causes of deafness in Western societies.

This study was based on the knowledge that, in many cases, degeneration of nerve function is caused by a cascade of events, beginning with a trauma that induces an increase of calcium in nerve cells. Excess calcium, in turn, increases the level of enzymes called calpains, which promote the breakdown of proteins and other factors critical to nerve functioning.

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Contact: Lois Baker
ljbaker@ buffalo.edu
716-645-2626
University at Buffalo
9-Apr-1999


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