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Regenerate Sensory Hair Cells, Restore Hearing to Noise-Damaged Ears

Hearing loss is a significant public health problem affecting almost 50 million people in the United States alone. Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common form and is caused by the loss of sensory hair cells in the cochlea. Hair cell loss results from a variety of factors including noise exposure, aging, toxins, infections, and certain antibiotics and anti-cancer drugs. Although hearing aids and cochlear implants can ameliorate the symptoms somewhat, there are no known treatments to restore hearing, because auditory hair cells in mammals, unlike those in birds or fish, do not regenerate once lost. Auditory hair cell replacement holds great promise as a treatment that could restore hearing after loss of hair cells.

In the Jan. 10 issue of Neuron, Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Harvard Medical School researchers demonstrate for the first time that hair cells can be regenerated in an adult mammalian ear by using a drug to stimulate resident cells to become new hair cells, resulting in partial recovery of hearing in mouse ears damaged by noise trauma. This finding holds great potential for future therapeutic application that may someday reverse deafness in humans.

Notch Inhibition Induces Cochlear Hair Cell Regeneration and Recovery of Hearing after Acoustic Trauma
Kunio Mizutari, et al.
Neuron, Volume 77, Issue 1, 58-69, 9 January 2013, 10.1016/j.neuron.2012.11.032


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