Stem Cells Could Cure Deafness

Researchers believe breakthrough will help reverse hearing loss

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 2, 2009 6:06 AM CDT

(Newser) – Stem cell researchers have made a breakthrough they believe could someday cure deafness, the Times of London reports. The British team, working with stem cells from the inner ear, have successfully grown early versions of the cells that enable hearing and now aim to create functional cells that can be transplanted into the inner ear to reverse hearing loss.

Researchers say a cure for total hearing loss is still at least a decade away, but believe their work can be used immediately to test new drugs and probe the causes of deafness. "This research is incredibly promising and opens up exciting possibilities by bringing us closer to restoring hearing in the future,” said a research director at the Royal National Institute for the Deaf.

Scientists say that while much stem cell research is promising, practical therapies could still be many years away.   (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
Researchers are working on growing cells that can be transplanted into the inner ear to reverse hearing loss.   (©ImNotQuiteJack)
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Is this the ultimate upgrade for the iPod generation? If scientists can find out ways to deliver new cells to the inner ear, and wire them up correctly, then ‘plug and play’ hearing could be the future. - David McAlpine, professor of auditory neuroscience at University College London

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