Inflammation of the middle ear (otitis media) is one of the most common pediatric ailments. Young children are particularly prone to otitis media as their Eustachian tubes, which regulate the pressure in the middle ear, have not yet fully developed.
In many instances it is accompanied by an acute ear infection and can be resolved by a course of antibiotics.
However, other forms of the disease, e.g, otitis media with effusion, which occurs when fluid accumulates in the middle-ear cavity in the absence of an acute ear infection, are linked to auditory or eustachian tube dysfunction. This, in turn, is influenced by poorly understood factors, including genetics.
In a new study, J. G. Seidman and colleagues at Harvard Medical School in Boston, found that removing the Eya4 gene in mice caused malformation of the Eustachian tube as well as otitis media with effusion. The authors therefore suggested that EYA4 mutations might predispose individuals to otitis media with effusion.
As discussed in an accompanying commentary by Evelyn Lazaridis and James Saunders at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, this description of a genetic model of otitis media with effusion should aid in the development of therapeutics for this condition, frequent recurrence of which is accompanied by an increased risk for sustained conductive hearing loss, with the potential for speech, language, and learning problems.
The article "Eya4-deficient mice are a model for heritable otitis media" is published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation January 24, 2008.
Materials provided by Journal of Clinical Investigation. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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