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Study shows isolation of stem cells may lead to a treatment for hearing loss

Have you ever walked by someone listening to their i-Pod loud enough for you recognize the song? Studies have shown noise-induced hearing loss is going to become the next big epidemic affecting our younger generation though the effects won’t show until it is too late to treat. In addition to loud noise, certain cancer drugs or genetic factors can cause hearing loss in humans due to loss or faulty development of the sensory ‘microphones?(hair cells) inside the ear ?the cochlea. Lost hair cells are not replaced and people exposed to these conditions face permanent hearing loss. Identification of the stem cells from the adult cochlea would be a major step forward to develop new therapeutic approaches to hearing loss.

Members of the National Center for Regenerative Medicine research team, Dr. Robert Miller and Dr. Kumar Alagramam, both of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, recently published research findings in Developmental Neuroscience which suggest new ways of treating hearing loss. These researchers have isolated “cochlear stem cells?located in the inner ear and already primed for development into ear-related tissue due to their proximity to the ear and expression of certain genes necessary for the development of hearing. “Previous work in our lab with young-adult mouse cochlear tissue showed expression of genes normally found in stem cells and neural progenitors. This led us to hypothesize that cochlea harbors stem cells and neural precursor cells. Our work in collaboration with Miller’s lab supports our hypothesis?Dr. Alagramam said. They say that in early life, these precursor cells may be able to regenerate hair cells, but their capacity to do so becomes limited as the ear develops and ages. The team's research is a major step in devising a therapy to reverse permanent hearing loss because it may lead to the activation of cochlear stem cells in the inner ear to regenerate new hair cells. “Clearly we have miles to go before we reach
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Source:Case Western Reserve University


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