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Treating brain inflammation could help silence tinnitus

Treating brain inflammation co...
Inflammation in the brain could be a new drug target for treating tinnitus
Inflammation in the brain could be a new drug target for treating tinnitus
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Inflammation in the brain could be a new drug target for treating tinnitus
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Inflammation in the brain could be a new drug target for treating tinnitus

If you've ever been kept awake by that ringing in your ears when everything else is quiet, you'd be familiar with how frustrating tinnitus can be. Now, research led by the University of Arizona may have uncovered a potential new treatment target – not in the ears but within the brain itself. The study suggests that neuroinflammation is to blame, and could be a new way to fix the problem.

Tinnitus itself is a symptom of hearing loss, induced by loud noises. Stand too close to the speakers at too many gigs, or spend a lifetime working in a saw mill with no hearing protection, and you'll permanently damage your hearing. But rather than just reducing the range of sounds you can hear, that damage can trigger tinnitus as a ringing or a hiss in the ears.

Recent studies may have found the connection. Inflammation is the body's response to damage or infection, so noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) could cause inflammation in the auditory pathway. That in turn could be what triggers tinnitus, but exactly how is still unknown.

To investigate, the researchers on the new study focused on mice with NIHL, looking at neuroinflammation in the auditory cortex. The team found that in that part of their brains, those mice had higher levels of molecules called proinflamatory cytokines, and cells called microglia appeared to be activated in higher amounts. Both of these are known to be involved in neuroinflammatory responses.

The team also singled out a molecule called tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) as being involved in neuroinflammation and tinnitus. When the researchers knocked out the gene responsible for TNF-α, they found that neuroinflammation was prevented and the mice no longer showed signs of tinnitus. The same result was shown when TNF-α was blocked using drugs in another group of mice.

To check the reverse of the connection between tinnitus and TNF-α, the researchers also infused more of the molecule into the primary auditory cortex of other groups of mice. Sure enough, the extra molecules were found to trigger tinnitus behaviors both in mice with normal hearing and those engineered to lack TNF-α.

If the findings translate over to humans, drugs that block TNF-α could become a brand new treatment for tinnitus. Other potential treatments in the works include a headset developed by University of Michigan researchers that delivers small electrical pulses into the brain.

The research was published in the journal PLOS Biology.

Source: PLOS via Scimex

8 comments
Elizane09
I've had tinnitus for the past 60 years and its a bummer. I'm 81 years old now. One doctor told me to mask it by playing loud music. Sure, it worked for awhile, but that was not the answer I was looking for.
Biker Bill
I too have dealt with this issue for 30 years. I can't sleep in a quiet room. I must have background sounds such as a television or movie playing all night long. Needless to say, my wife sleeps in another room. No doctors I have seen have any treatment or even suggestions. I have even sought advice on Youtube, to no avail. I hope someone happens fast. There have been suicides due to people not being able to continue on living with the endless ringing. It is horrible.
Dalong
About 20 years ago a doctor gave me some medicine for back pain. Indomethacine (?) it was called. About a week later my ears started ringing and I haven`t enjoyed a quiet moment since. For the first year or so it was maddening. Sure hope they find a treatment.
FabianLamaestra
I thought LipoFlavonoid's claimed to reduce inflammation and increase circulation, which helps less than 10% of tinnitus sufferers. I hope this new drug treatment works better. I am also tracking Neruomod in Europe, which might be a real cure.
Scottsdale Bob
My permanent tinnitus was the residual effect of curing an ear infection with anti-biotics. It's been 10 years now. 6 years ago I was prescribed a pain killer and antibiotics for a tooth infection. The next day my ear ringing was gone. The silence and quiet was amazing! This lasted for a week and after the infection was cured, I woke up with ringing again. My Dentist and my Doctor said my experience was was just a "coincidence".
Observer101
How do they knock out the gene? Is it a simple process, or extensive one? Sounds like many are hoping for a SOONER THAN LATER CURE....or they are at least willing to try... "Right to try" !
amanda32
I've had tinnitus for over 20 years now, the doctor's just don't seem to care cause they don't know how it feels! I've tried everything, all methods, the only thing that worked and helped on the relief of symptoms was Lipo-Flavonoid Plus! It really helped me! The ringing's still there but it's much better!
ljaques
35 years ago, I hurt my back and ended up taking too much aspirin for a year, which triggered the tinnitus. Luckily, it doesn't keep me up at night. I look forward to a treatment for it and hope this study leads to one.