Date: Wednesday 15th May, 2013
The quest to beat deafness is well and truly on its way after researchers in America helped to restore the hearing in mice.
Scientists at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Harvard Medical School managed to regenerate the tiny ear hairs that help to detect sound.
A drug was injected into the animals which were completely deaf. The aim was to target specific cells and change them into hair cells; and although normal hearing was not fully reinstated, some hearing was regained.
Dr Albert Edge, one of the researchers, said: “It hasn’t been possible to regenerate hair cells in adult mammals before, this is very exciting. It shows for the first time that it’s possible.”
Now the move has been hailed “tremendously exciting” by hlth experts in the industry, in the pursuit to cure adults that are deaf or hard of hearing.
The development of hair cell regeneration began back in the 1980’s, but to date it has yet to come to fruition.
Can it work on humans?
The advancement is thrilling but it is important to note that the likelihood of treating humans is still far-flung.
Brain scans revealed that the mice could detect loud noises at a low frequency. The improvement wasn’t enormous but it was still an enhancement.
How does it work?
We all hear by the ear converting sounds into electrical signals. Vibrations move the tiny hairs inside our ears that are then converted into signals; these are then transmitted to the brain to process. Most people who struggle to hear properly do so because their ear hairs are damaged.
Dr Ralph Holme, Head of Biomedical Research at the charity Action on Hearing Loss, the trading name of the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID), said: “The idea that a drug could be used to ‘trick’ the cochlea into producing new hair cells to improve hearing is tremendously exciting and offers real hope to the millions of people seeking a cure for their hearing loss.”
However, he stressed the importance that the research is in its early stages and therefore only a partial recovery was obtained.