30 June 2008

Regenerating damaged hearing cells may be possible

The possibility of regenerating damaged hearing cells has been supported by fetal stem-cell research. Actual treatment based on new techniques may be far into the future, according to scientists.

Stem-cell research has resulted in a breakthrough in the area of regenerating hearing cells in the inner ear. This could be good news some 20-30 years into the future for those with damage in the cells that transform sound waves in the ear into nerve impulses in the brain. Not until then can a treatment of sensorineural hearing loss with gene therapy be expected to become available, according to the stem-cell researchers.

Damaged cells can be repaired with stem-cells

”We have succeeded in modifying hearing stem-cells from a fetus so they are directed to the area of the inner ear where they become part of the tissue they are supposed to repair,” explained Allen Ryan, professor at University of California at San Diego. Ryan is a scientist involved in the regeneration research.

According to Ryan, the experiments proved that young vestibular tissue implanted into damaged tissue is able to transform itself into hearing cells and even form hair cells. Inner ear hair cells are essential for hearing.

Source: El País, 19/12 2007

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