Humans are born with about 11,000 hair cells in each ear that are vital to transmit sound. As time goes on and the body begins to age, people begin to experience the slow progression of hearing loss due to the death of these cells. Hereditary hearing loss is often caused by a genetic mutation in the hair cells of the ear, which are found in the inner ear, or cochlea, and are the sensory receptors of sound.
People with hereditary hearing loss are currently treated with an artificial implant. Many scientists believe stem cells could restore the normal function of the hair cells and, as a result, the restore the patient’s hearing.
“I am very excited by what we have done. We hope this work will lead to a cure for a form of hereditary deafness,” says Professor Kazusaku Kamiya, a specialist in ear diseases.
Scientist believe within 5 to 10 years we could have a treatment for deafness after discovering they can produce new cells for the cochlea in order to correct this defect.
“We have found a way to make cochlear stem cells. The next step is to find a way to safely inject them into the patient’s ear” says Professor Kamiya.
Professor Kamiya and his team believe this new discovery may be able to correct a mutation in a gene called “Gap Junction Beta 2, which accounts for deafness or hearing loss for one in a thousand children.” The newly grown stem cells that will replace the defected cochlear will not have this mutation and scientist believe will restore a patients hearing.
Currently there are no cures for most types of hearing loss but with this latest discovery, research is showing stem cells may be able to reverse hearing loss.