Subscribe to the BioNews newsletter for free

Login
Advanced Search

Search for
BioNews

Like the Progress Educational Trust on Facebook


Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis: The Who, the What, the Why and the How


 

Stem cells restore hearing in animals for first time

17 September 2012

By Dr Greg Ball

Appeared in BioNews 673

Stem cells have been used to partially restore hearing in deaf gerbils through replacement of their auditory nerve cells.

Dr Marcelo Rivolta, who led the research team at the University of Sheffield, said: 'What we have shown here is functional recovery using human stem cells, which is unique'. This is the first time that functional recovery has been seen using stem cells in the ear, marking an important proof of concept.

In response to sound, auditory nerve cells send signals from the ears to the brain. Of the ten million deaf people in the UK around 15 percent have a condition called auditory neuropathy, where there is a break down in these neural connections. Restoring auditory nerve cells using stem cells may therefore have the potential to help those with this condition.

Scientists transformed human embryonic stem cells into early stage auditory nerve cells using a variety of chemicals. These nerve cells were then implanted in the inner ears of gerbils who had been given a drug to destroy their auditory nerves and make them deaf, mimicking the condition of auditory neuropathy. Gerbils were chosen, instead of the more commonly used mice, as they hear sound in a similar range of frequencies as humans.

Ten weeks after treatment the animals' hearing was tested. On average, the animals who received the treatment regained 46 percent of their hearing, compared to no recovery seen in the animals that did not receive the treatment. The improvement was variable with some animals showing no improvement and others regaining up to 90 percent of their hearing, dependent upon the number of nerve cells that were successfully implanted into inner ear.

Dr Rivolta put the recovery into context, saying: 'If this were a human patient, it would mean going from being so deaf that you wouldn't be able to hear a lorry on the street to a point where you can maintain a conversation. It's not a full restoration and the restoration is very variable but, on average, that is the kind of recovery we see'.

Technical challenges need to be overcome if the technology is to be successful in humans. Professor Dave Moore, director of the Medical Research Council's Institute of Hearing Research in Nottingham, told the BBC: 'The biggest issue is actually getting into the part of the inner ear where they'll do some good. It's extremely tiny and very difficult to get to and that will be a really formidable undertaking'.

Dr Ralph Holme, head of biomedical research for the charity Action on Hearing Loss who partly funded the study, said: 'The research is tremendously encouraging and gives us real hope that it will be possible to fix the actual cause of some types of hearing loss in the future'. Reported in Reuters, Dr Rivolta suggested the therapy could reach clinical trials in humans in a few years time.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
BBC News | 12 September 2012
 
Reuters | 12 September 2012
 
Guardian | 12 September 2012
 
Nature | 12 September 2012
 
Daily Telegraph | 12 September 2012
 

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

27 February 2017 - by Caroline Casey 
Scientists have developed a way of growing thousands of human hair cells – sensors in the inner ear that detect sound – from stem cells...
06 February 2017 - by Caroline Casey 
A novel gene therapy technique has partially restored hearing and balance in deaf mice...
13 July 2015 - by Dr Greg Ball 
A technique that delivers genes into the inner ears of mice has been used to restore hearing, marking the first time that gene therapy has been successfully used to treat deafness...
28 April 2014 - by Ruth Retassie 
Gene therapy, performed using cochlear implants, has regenerated auditory nerves in guinea pigs, a study reports...
04 February 2013 - by Reuben Harwood 
Aged stem cells can be returned to a younger, more active state by increasing the activity of a single gene...

13 February 2012 - by Dr Rebecca Hill 
US researchers have received approval to test whether cord blood stem cells could be used to reverse hearing loss in children...
17 May 2010 - by Kyrillos Georgiadis 
US Scientists have produced mouse inner ear hair cells using stem cells, paving the way for a cure for deafness and other related balance disorders...
15 November 2009 - by Dr Jay Stone 
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin, US have discovered that a gene called Bak contributes to age related hearing loss (AHL). Their findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, report that deleting the gene in mice appears to save the hair cells, resulting in fewer hearing defects....
01 September 2008 - by Stuart Scott 
A team of US scientists have used gene therapy to regenerate inner ear 'hair' cells - the culprit in many forms of deafness. The team, lead by John Brigande, who is himself profoundly deaf, injected mice with a version the Atoh1 gene modified so that it fluoresces green...

HAVE YOUR SAY
Be the first to have your say.

You need to or  to add comments.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions


- click here to enquire about using this story.

Published by the Progress Educational Trust

CROSSING FRONTIERS

Moving the Boundaries of Human Reproduction

Public Conference
London
8 December 2017

Speakers include

Professor Azim Surani

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge

Sally Cheshire

Professor Guido Pennings

Katherine Littler

Professor Richard Anderson

Dr Sue Avery

Dr Elizabeth Garner

Professor Allan Pacey

Dr Anna Smajdor

Dr Andy Greenfield

Philippa Taylor

Dr César Palacios-González

Fiona Fox

Sarah Norcross

EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT
if you book now


BOOK HERE

Good Fundraising Code

Become a Friend of PET HERE and give the Progress Educational Trust a regular donation