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Stem Cells May Help Deaf People Hear Again

April 4 2009 | by

Stem cells may help deaf people hear again, according to early stage research by British scientists. According to Reuters, a team at the University of Sheffield said on Thursday they had discovered how to turn stem cells into ones that behave like sensory hair cells or auditory neurons, which could then be surgically inserted into the ear to restore lost hearing. The approach, which is being tested on animals, is still a long way from being offered to patients.

The cells in the ear that detect sound are created only in the womb, which means there is no way to repair them once they have been damaged, resulting in permanent hearing loss. Using stem cells — master cells that produce all the body’s tissues and organs — to generate these cell types in the laboratory could change that dramatically.

Doctors hope one day to use stem cells to treat a wide range of diseases such as Parkinson’s, diabetes and cancer. But localized approaches in the eye or ear may be a promising first step, since fewer cells are involved.

Read more at Reuters

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