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Hearing Restored By Stem Cells

Update Date: Jun 20, 2014 10:56 PM EDT

Forget hearing aids and cochlear implants. New research reveals that stem cells may be the answer to restoring failing hearing, according to researchers at Goethe-University (Frankfurt, Germany), Justus-Liebig University (Giessen, Germany), Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (Boston, MA), and Harvard University and MIT (Cambridge, MA).

Researchers explain that spiral ganglion cells are very important for hearing. However, their irreversible degeneration is very common in most types of hearing loss.

Researchers explain that adult spiral ganglion cells are not able to regenerate, but new research on mice reveals that spiral ganglion stem cells present in the inner ear self-renews, and can be grown and developed into mature spiral ganglion cells as well as neurons and glial cells, as described in an article in BioResearch Open Access, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers.

Researchers said that the latest findings suggest that self-renewing properties shown by spiral ganglion stem cells make them a promising source of replacement cells for therapies designed to restore the neural structures of the inner ear.

"These findings are particularly interesting as they show that spiral ganglion stem cells can be propagated in vitro," BioResearch Open Access Editor Jane Taylor, PhD, MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University of Edinburgh, Scotland said in a news release. "These cells are normally poorly regenerated in the mammalian ear."

The findings were published in BioResearch Open Access, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. 

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