Micronutrient May Counteract Gentamicin Hearing Loss

L-carnitine attenuates gene-mediated effect on cochlear damage in guinea pigs

MONDAY, Oct. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Activation of the cell-death promoting gene Harakiri is associated with gentamicin-induced hearing loss, according to an animal study in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. What's more, supplementation with the micronutrient, L-carnitine, appeared to prevent the gene's damaging effect in newborn guinea pigs.

Although gentamicin is a frequently used antibiotic, it has potent nephrotoxic and ototoxic effects. Federico Kalinec, Ph.D., of the House Ear Institute in Los Angeles, and colleagues found that L-carnitine prevented both gentamicin-induced cell death in an auditory cell line and cochlear damage in newborn guinea pigs exposed to gentamicin in utero. The protective effect was due to L-carnitine's ability to attenuate activation of the death-promoting gene Harakiri. Gentamicin-induced activation of Harakiri was found previously by microarray analysis.

Gentamicin is often used to treat infections in pregnant women so the authors suggest L-carnitine could protect cochlear development in the fetus. "Our data offer a conceptual framework for designing clinical trials using a safe micronutrient, [L-carnitine], as a simple preventive strategy for iatrogenically induced ototoxicity," they conclude.

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