January 14, 2013 By News Staff
Hearing loss affects almost 50 million people in the United States, and the most common form -- called sensorineural hearing loss -- is caused by the loss of sensory hair cells in the cochlea.
Hair cell loss results from a variety of factors including noise exposure, aging, toxins, infections, and certain antibiotics and anti-cancer drugs. Although hearing aids and cochlear implants can ameliorate the symptoms somewhat, there are no known treatments to restore hearing.
But for the first time, Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Harvard Medical School researchers have demonstrated that hair cells can be regenerated in an adult mammalian ear, according to a Massachusetts Eye and Ear press release. Using a drug to stimulate resident cells to become new hair cells, resulted in partial recovery of hearing in mouse ears damaged by noise trauma.
This finding holds great potential for future therapeutic application that may someday reverse deafness in humans, according to the release.
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