Recent advancements in understanding the role of epigenetics in the auditory system

Rahul Mittal, Nicole Bencie, George Liu, Nicolas Eshraghi, Eric Nisenbaum, Susan H. Blanton, Denise Yan, Jeenu Mittal, Christine T. Dinh, Juan I. Young, Feng Gong, Xue Zhong Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Sensorineural deafness in mammals is most commonly caused by damage to inner ear sensory epithelia, or hair cells, and can be attributed to genetic and environmental causes. After undergoing trauma, many non-mammalian organisms, including reptiles, birds, and zebrafish, are capable of regenerating damaged hair cells. Mammals, however, are not capable of regenerating damaged inner ear sensory epithelia, so that hair cell damage is permanent and can lead to hearing loss. The field of epigenetics, which is the study of various phenotypic changes caused by modification of genetic expression rather than alteration of DNA sequence, has seen numerous developments in uncovering biological mechanisms of gene expression and creating various medical treatments. However, there is a lack of information on the precise contribution of epigenetic modifications in the auditory system, specifically regarding their correlation with development of inner ear (cochlea) and consequent hearing impairment. Current studies have suggested that epigenetic modifications influence differentiation, development, and protection of auditory hair cells in cochlea, and can lead to hair cell degeneration. The objective of this article is to review the existing literature and discuss the advancements made in understanding epigenetic modifications of inner ear sensory epithelial cells. The analysis of the emerging epigenetic mechanisms related to inner ear sensory epithelial cells development, differentiation, protection, and regeneration will pave the way to develop novel therapeutic strategies for hearing loss.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number144996
StatePublished - Nov 30 2020


  • Auditory system
  • Epigenetics
  • Hearing
  • Sensory epithelial cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics


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