British researchers on track to create inner ear cells
Stem cells may help deaf people hear
again, according to early stage research by British scientists
reported in the journal Stem Cell. A team at the University of
Sheffield has discovered how to turn stem cells into ones that behave
like sensory hair cells or auditory neurons. It may be possible to
surgically insert these into the ear to restore lost hearing.
The approach is being tested on animals
but human trials are several years away.
The cells in the ear that detect sound
are created only in the womb, which means that it is impossible to
repair them once they have been damaged, resulting in permanent
Marcelo Rivolta, who led the study at
the University of Sheffield, said: “The potential of stem cells is
very exciting. We have now an experimental system to study genes and
drugs in a human context. Moreover, these cells would help us to
develop the technologies needed to deliver them into damaged tissues,
such as the cochlea, in order to restore the different cell types.
This should facilitate the development of a stem-cell treatment for
deafness.” ~ London
Times, Apr 2
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