Groundbreaking gene therapy restores baby's hearing

An 18-month-old British girl who was born completely deaf is believed to be the youngest person to have her hearing restored after a revolutionary new gene therapy, AFP reports.

Several medical teams around the world, including in China and the United States, are trialing similar treatments with good results for hereditary deafness, which is based on a rare genetic mutation.

British ear surgeon Manohar Banks said toddler Opal was the first person in the world to receive the therapy, developed by US biotech firm Regeneron, and "the youngest worldwide to have been done to date to our knowledge".

Opal was treated at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, part of Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in the East of England.

Banks called the results of Opal's surgery "impressive - so close to restoring normal hearing". So hopefully this could be a potential cure."

The surgery is the result of decades of work and marks "a new era in the treatment of deafness".

The girl, from Oxfordshire in south-central England, has a genetic form of auditory neuropathy, which is caused by a disruption of nerve impulses from the inner ear to the brain.

To overcome the damage, Regeneron's 'new age' gene therapy delivers a working copy of the gene into the ear.

Since the surgery last September, Opal's hearing is now "close to normal," with further improvement expected.

A second child received the gene therapy in Cambridge. Positive results were noticed six weeks after the operation. /BGNES