Damaged hair cells in the inner ear are associated with permanent hearing loss, as hair cells cannot regenerate or be replaced.
Today, this conventional wisdom is being challenged by University of California researchers. They have been studying stem cells from the lateral ventricle of the brain that they believe will some day be able to replace damaged inner ear hair cells.
The researchers identified two important characteristics of the lateral ventricle stem cells: They look like inner ear hair cells, and they are able to reproduce.
Potentially, this discovery may some day lead to transplants of stem cells from a hearing impaired individual's brain to his or her inner ear, with the cells taking on the role of hair cells.
The theory is currently the subject of laboratory tests.