Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Gene Mutation Leads to Impairment of Two Senses: Touch and Hearing

02.05.2012
People with good hearing also have a keen sense of touch; people with impaired hearing generally have an impaired sense of touch. Data supporting this hypothesis was presented by Dr. Henning Frenzel and Prof. Gary R. Lewin (Max Delbrück Center, MDC, Berlin).
They showed that both senses have a common genetic basis. In patients with Usher syndrome, a hereditary form of deafness accompanied by impaired vision, they discovered a gene mutation that is also causative for the patients’ impaired touch sensitivity (PloS Biology doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001318)*. The examination was preceded by various studies, including twin studies. In total, they assessed sensory function in 518 volunteers.

People with good hearing also have a keen sense of touch; people with impaired hearing generally have an impaired sense of touch. Extensive data supporting this hypothesis was presented by Dr. Henning Frenzel and Professor Gary R. Lewin of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany. The two researchers showed that both senses – hearing and touch – have a common genetic basis. In patients with Usher syndrome, a hereditary form of deafness accompanied by impaired vision, they discovered a gene mutation that is also causative for the patients’ impaired touch sensitivity. The examination was preceded by various studies, including studies with healthy identical and non-identical human twins (PloS Biology, doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001318)*. In total, the researchers assessed sensory function in 518 volunteers.

In all vertebrates, and consequently also in humans, hearing and touch represent two distinct sensory systems that both rely on the transformation of mechanical force into electrical signals. When we hear, sound waves trigger vibrations that stimulate the hair-like nerve endings in the cochlea in the inner ear. These then transform the mechanical stimuli into electrical signals, which are transmitted to the brain via the auditory nerve. When we touch something a similar process takes place: The mechanical stimulus - sliding the fingers over a rough or smooth surface, the perception of vibrations - is taken up via sensors in the skin, converted into an electrical stimulus and transmitted to the brain.
Twin study with 100 pairs of twins
In recent years about 70 genes have been identified in humans, mutations in which trigger hearing loss or deafness. “Surprisingly, no genes have been found that negatively influence the sense of touch,” Professor Lewin said. To see whether the sense of touch also has a hereditary component, the researchers first studied 100 pairs of twins - 66 pairs of monozygotic twins and 34 dizygotic pairs of twins. Monozygotic twins are genetically completely identical; dizygotic twins are genetically identical to 50 percent. The tests showed that the touch sensitivity of the subjects was determined to more than 50 percent by genes. Furthermore, hearing and touch tests showed that there is a correlation between the sense of hearing and touch.

The researchers therefore suspected that genes that influence the sense of hearing may also have an influence on the sense of touch. In a next step, they recruited test subjects at a school in Berlin for students with hearing impairments. There they assessed the touch sensitivity in a cohort of 39 young people who suffered from severe congenital hearing impairment. The researchers compared these findings with the data from their twin study and discovered that not all of the young people with hearing loss had impaired tactile acuity. “Strikingly, however, many of these young people did indeed have poor tactile acuity,” Professor Lewin explained.

The researchers decided it would take too much time to analyze which of the approximately 70 genes that adversely affect the sense of hearing may also negatively affect the sense of touch. Therefore, the researchers focused specifically on patients with the Usher syndrome, a hereditary form of hearing impairment, in which the patients progressively become blind. Usher syndrome patients have varying degrees of hearing impairment, and the disease is genetically very well studied. There are nine known Usher genes carrying mutations which cause the disease.

The researchers examined one cohort of patients in a special consultation at the Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin for Usher patients from all over Germany. A second cohort was recruited at the university hospital La Fe in Valencia, Spain. The studies revealed that not all patients with Usher-syndrome have poor tactile acuity and touch sensitivity. The researchers showed that only patients with Usher syndrome who have a mutation in the gene USH2A have poor touch sensitivity. This mutation is also responsible for the impaired hearing of 19 patients. The 29 Usher-syndrome patients in whom the mutation could not be detected had a normal sense of touch. The researchers thus demonstrated that there is a common genetic basis for the sense of hearing and touch. They suspect that even more genes will be discovered in the future that influence both mechanosensory traits.

Women hear better than men and have a finer sense of touch
The researchers discovered another interesting detail during their five-year study. “When women complain that their men are not really listening to them, there is some truth in that,” Professor Lewin said. “The studies with a total of 518 individuals including 295 women have actually shown that women hear better and they also have a finer sense of touch than men; in short woman hear and feel more than men!”
*A genetic basis for mechanosensory traits in humans
Henning Frenzel1, Jörg Bohlender2, Katrin Pinsker2, Bärbel Wohlleben2, Jens Tank3, Stefan G. Lechner1, Daniela Schiska2, Teresa Jaijo5, Franz Rueschendorf4, Kathrin Saar4, Jens Jordan3, José M. Millán5 and Manfred Gross2, Gary R. Lewin1,6

1Department of Neuroscience, Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, Robert-Rössle-Str. 10, Berlin-Buch D-13092 Germany, 2Department of Audiology and Phoniatrics, Charité, Universitätsmedizin, Berlin, Augustenburger Platz 1, Berlin D-13353 Germany. 3Institute of Clinical Pharmacology, Hannover Medical School, Carl-Neuberg-Str. 1, Hannover D-30625, Germany, 4Experimental genetics of cardiovascular disease, Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, Robert-Rössle-Str. 10, Berlin-Buch D-13092 Germany, 5Genetics Unit, Hospital Universitario La Fe, Avda. de Campanar, 21, 46009 and CIBERER, Valencia, Spain
6Author for Correspondence

Contact:
Press Department
Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch
in the Helmholtz Association
Robert-Rössle-Straße 10; 13125 Berlin; Germany
Phone: +49 (0) 30 94 06 - 38 96
Fax: +49 (0) 30 94 06 - 38 33
e-mail: presse@mdc-berlin.de

Barbara Bachtler | Max-Delbrück-Centrum
Further information:
http://www.mdc-berlin.de/
http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v15/n1/pdf/nn.2985.pdf

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht When Air is in Short Supply - Shedding light on plant stress reactions when oxygen runs short
23.03.2017 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

nachricht WPI team grows heart tissue on spinach leaves
23.03.2017 | Worcester Polytechnic Institute

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

When Air is in Short Supply - Shedding light on plant stress reactions when oxygen runs short

23.03.2017 | Life Sciences

Researchers use light to remotely control curvature of plastics

23.03.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Sea ice extent sinks to record lows at both poles

23.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>