Could Stem Cells Help Restore Hearing?

First Posted: Jun 20, 2014 11:41 PM EDT

A newly discovered type of stem cell may prove helpful in replacing tissues damaged through hearing loss.

Spiral ganglion cells that play a significant role in hearing and the ear's irreversible degeneration in the inner ear could provide self-renewing capabilities, according to a recent study published in BioResearch Open Access. Researchers found that these cells can be grown and induced to differentiate into mature spiral ganglion cells as well as neurons and glial cells that help with hearing.

Marc Diensthuber and coauthors from 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), said they believe that these self-renewing properties found by spiral ganglion stem cells help make them a promising source of replacement cells for therapies designed specifically to help regenerate 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," said BioResearch Open Access Editor Jane Taylor, PhD, MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University of Edinburgh, Scotland, in a news release. "These cells are normally poorly regenerated in the mammalian ear."

With the future hope for these stem cells, other opportunities involving the biological cells take show great possibilities in the workings of medical science. For instance, some scientists are working with stem cells to fight various health issues. Others may also be using them to help animals.

Thank scientists for the discovery of these building blocks of life. 

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