Stem Cell Research Offers Hope for the Deaf
April 2, 2009
(ChattahBox)—British researchers from the University of Sheffield just published the results in the Stem Cell Journal, of an exciting new study using stem cells to treat deafness. Although, researchers admit their methods are years away from human trials, the research shows great promise to someday restore hearing loss in people who suffer from permanent deafness and have little hope of ever hearing again.
Once hearing is lost, it is usually permanent and can’t be restored. However, with the use of fetal stem cells, blueprint “master” cells of the human body, the researchers were able to manipulate the stem cells to grow sensory hair cells or auditory neurons. Lead researcher Marcelo Rivolt, hopes one day to be able to implant the new auditory cells into human ears to restore lost hearing. So far, the researchers obtained promising results inserting the auditory cells into animals.
The British researchers discovered that the new auditory cells produced from the fetal cells, performed identically to existing cells in developing ears. Researchers are also studying the use of embryonic and adult stem cells for their studies on restoring hearing loss. Stem cell research offers exciting possibilities for cures to such diseases as Parkinson’s, diabetes, cancer and many forms of muscular dystrophy.
British researchers also recently obtained great success in using stem cells to treat macular degeneration of the eyes, which is a common condition among the elderly. They will be conducting clinical trials on humans within the next two years.