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July 09, 2014

Chickens possess the ability to restore their hearing

Chickens have been discovered to have the ability to restore their hearing after experiencing hearing loss.

Chickens possess the ability to restore their hearing

A study shows how chickens possess the ability to regenerate damaged hair cells after experiencing hearing loss. This is a not uncommon feat among animals, except in mammals – like humans.

A surprise

A research project, called The Hearing Restoration Project conducted by Hearing Health Foundation in the U.S., tested hearing loss among chickens. For 10 days, the researchers exposed laboratory chickens to a common antibiotic known to cause hearing loss.

On day 11, many of the chickens’ hair cells had been lost and even more followed in the days thereafter. Surprisingly, three weeks later, when the researchers examined the chickens again, nearly all of the hair cells had been restored.

The secret behind the restoration of the chickens’ hearing lies in the ability of the supporting cells found in the inner ear, which can replace hair cells damaged by load noises or other causes. The goal of the research is to translate this ability to humans.

Early success with mice

Even though mammals don’t possess this feat, preliminary research with mice (conducted by the same research team) shows how it can be simulated to regenerate hair cells and partially restore hearing. This was done by using a drug that blocks the auditory pathway that prevents the restoration of hair cells in mammals. Once blocked, supporting cells in the cochlea were able to grow back.

While much work remains, the preliminary research shows a proof of concept on how the regeneration of hair cells can occur in mammals.

Researchers hope to use this information to develop a cure for some types of hearing losses in the future.

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