There are many kinds of hearing loss, due to advancing age, chemotherapy, usage of certain antibiotics, and exposure to loud noise, apart from some congenital causes. Most of these deafness cases are untreatable today, mainly because sensory cells in charge of hearing, called hair cells due to their hairy structure, are difficult to revive or regrow, once they are damaged.
But many of such conditions may be treatable soon. A new project by researchers at University of Southern California’s Stem Cell Laboratories has succeeded in growing cells similar to ear’s natural sensory hearing cells, from three different types of source cells, through genetic reprogramming
One of these three types of source cells is support cells of the inner ear itself, which opens up exciting new possibilities that sensory hearing cells can be regrown in place, in the ear itself. On the shorter time horizon, drugs too are expected to be developed targeting this mechanism.