Stem cells boost hopes of ending deafness

2012-09-13 10:30
This shows cells in the inner ear of a deaf gerbil. The yellow ones are nerve cells derived from human embryonic cells. (Marcelo Rivolta, University of Sheffield, Nature, AP)

This shows cells in the inner ear of a deaf gerbil. The yellow ones are nerve cells derived from human embryonic cells. (Marcelo Rivolta, University of Sheffield, Nature, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Paris - Scientists working with deaf gerbils said on Wednesday they had found a way of coaxing early stem cells into specialised ear cells that helped the rodents hear sound once more.

The gerbils had been given a chemical to damage key nerve cells called spiral ganglion neurons (SGNs). These transmit to the brain the signals that are picked up by "hair" cells, which respond to noise.

In a study published in the journal Nature, a team led by Marcelo Rivolta at Britain's University of Sheffield said they had found a way to turn human embryonic stem cells into precursors of these vital ear cells to reverse the deafness.

Stem cells are infant cells that develop into the specialised tissues of the body.

They have sparked great excitement as they offer hopes of rebuilding organs damaged by disease or accident.

Obstacles

Stem cells taken from an early embryonic stage are the most prized in research because they have the greatest versatility, but the big challenge is ensuring that they differentiate into the right tissue.

Rivolta nurtured the stem cells in a serum bath to gain "otic pregenitor" cells before gently implanting them in the gerbils.

After 10 weeks, the animals had, on average, recovered 46% of their hearing loss, according to electrodes that measured their brains' response to sound.

Their average level of detection was around 50 decibels, which is equivalent to a conversation in quiet surroundings.

"The range of recovery went from modest to almost complete, which is remarkable considering the technical challenges involved in the procedure," the paper said.

Many obstacles remain before this laboratory trial can be used on humans, a process that is closely regulated for safety.

But the researchers said that, if these hurdles are overcome, stem cell therapy could one day offer hope for deaf people when used with a cochlear implant, a device that circumvents loss of hair cells.
Read more on:    stem cell research  |  research
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
8 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24

 
/News

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Deal of the week!

Petrol generators from R1399, save up to R350. While stocks last. Shop now!

30% off Pampers!

Save 30% when you buy 3 or more selected pampers products. While stocks last. Shop now!

This week only - 30% off books!

Get 30% off when you buy 2 or more books. Many titles to choose from. While stocks last. Shop now!

New range of Samsung smartphones!

Samsung Galaxy A3, A5 and Alpha now available at kalahari.com. while stocks last. Shop now!

Buy 3 eBooks & only pay for 2!

The cheapest of the 3 titles will be free. Many more titles to choose from. While stocks last. Shop now!

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You are very people sensitive today and there is a tendency to put too much energy on service and outer obligations. The balance...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.