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Scientists closer to finding a cure for deafness using stem cell research

Published on 17/09/2012

Scientists are a step closer to finding a cure for deafness after successfully using stem cell research to repair damaged hearing.

Researchers from the Department of Biomedical Sciences at University Sheffield have used human embryonic stem cells to treat a common form of hearing loss.

Writing in the journal Nature, the scientists developed a method of turning embryonic stem cells into ear cells, and transplanted them into deaf gerbils.

After just four weeks of administering the cells they saw a functional recovery of hearing of around 46 per cent.

The research, funded by the Medical Research Council and charity Action on Hearing Loss, leads to hope that stem cells can be used to repair damaged hearing and produce new treatments in the future.

The model of hearing loss treated in the research is similar to a human condition known as auditory neuropathy, which affects up to 15 per cent of the population across the world with profound hearing loss.

Dr Marcelo Rivolta, who led the project, said: “We believe this an important step forward. We have now a method to produce human cochlear sensory cells that we could use to develop new drugs and treatments, and to study the function of genes.”

“And more importantly, we have the proof-of-concept that human stem cells could be used to repair the damaged ear.”

More research is needed until this treatment is ready to be used in a clinical environment, a process which is likely to take many years.

© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2012


Categories:  Medical
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