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Scientists Grow New Sensory Hair Cells to Restore Hearing Loss Using 'Special Cocktail'

Mar 09, 2017 05:06 AM EST
Scientists Unlock Ability to Create New Sensory Hair Cells, Hearing Restoration Closer Than Ever
The study, published in the journal Cell Reports, seeks to remedy the problem of hearing loss with a the new method.
(Photo : Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Scientists from the Brigham and Women's Hospital and MIT Eye & Ear have created a new method to create progenitor cells that can become hair cells to restore hearing loss.

The study, published in the journal Cell Reports, seeks to remedy the problem of hearing loss with a new method. According to the researchers, birds and other amphibians can actually regenerate these cells throughout their lifespan, which means that there's a possibility of passing on the same process can be made to humans as well.

Jeff Karp, co-corresponding author and biomedical engineer at BWH, explained that their method involved getting cochlear supporting cells with Lgr5, a marker that could be found in the stem cells of a lot of organs. According to Science Daily, using a "special cocktail," the researchers were actually able to create or ignite a 2,000-time increase of Lgr5 progenitor cells creation.

These, in turn, created new hair cells. Researchers said the new method proved successful in mice, some primates, and even human tissues. Interestingly, the new "special cocktail," the contents of which were not entirely specified, can actually regrow stronger cochlear tissue. This means that people with hearing loss can actually be treated.

Humans only have 15,000 sensory hair cells in each ear's cochlea. These hair cells are all vulnerable to all sorts of damage, and when they die, people get a higher chance of hearing loss.

 The hair cells, or sensory cells of the inner ear, are responsible for bringing "sounds" to the brain. These cells die in the presence of extreme noise or toxic drugs. Sadly, these cells do not regenerate, which is the leading cause of hearing loss. EurekAlert explained that hearing loss affects approximately 360 million people worldwide.

If Karp and his peers' method works, they may be able to create a drug or a treatment that can heal hearing loss within the next few years.

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