In short – no, sensorineural hearing loss is permanent. But new research out of Boston is the first of its kind to find a new approach to regeneration of sensory hair cells and other inner ear cells in people with hearing loss.
Understanding the Research
Published online on December 4 in Nature Communications, teams led by researchers from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary brought scientists one step closer to developing a treatment to regrow damaged hair cells that cause hearing loss.
The scientists developed a new strategy to induce cell division within the inner ear. With this technique, they would be able to reprogram cells in the inner ear to regenerate.
Zheng-Yi Chen, senior author of the study and associate professor of otolaryngology head and neck surgery at Harvard Medical school explained, “This paper is the first to show that, by reprogramming, mature mammalian inner-ear cells can be induced to divide and become hair cells, which are needed for hearing … These findings of renewed proliferation and hair cell generation in a fully mature inner ear lay the foundation for the application of reprogramming and hair cell regeneration.”
While previous studies were able to induce the cells in the inner ear of a newborn mouse to divide and regenerate, no one had been able to get these results in a mature ear – until now.
The new study was able to activate two molecular signals in the adult ear and found that these cells could be induced to divide. Some of the new cells even had the ability to form connections with the auditory nerve and create an electrical conversion, which are essential to hear.
Chen explained, “Our work revealed that reprogramming is achieved by reactivation of early inner-ear developmental genes so that the mature inner ear regains neonatal properties, which enables them to redivide and regenerate.”
Why These Results Matter
Permanent hearing loss is caused by damage to the cells of the inner ear, which can be caused by exposure to loud sounds, aging, genetic and environmental factors. While hearing aids provide treatment, there is currently no cure for this type of hearing loss.
Chen and his fellow researchers are working on developing druglike molecules that can achieve cell division and hair cell regeneration in larger mammals.
To learn more about the hearing loss treatments currently available, contact the experts at Evergreen Speech & Hearing, today.