Findings published today in Nature describe how a team of researchers used human embryonic stem cells to enable deaf rodents to hear again. Researchers hope that the stem-cell treatment could one day be combined with cochlear implants to restore hearing for more patients.
A piece in Technology Review describes the work and includes comments from Stefan Heller, MD, PhD. Heller was not involved in the study and had this to say about whether the therapy might eventually be used in the clinical setting:
While the study shows the potential of stem cells to replace auditory nerve fibers, says Stefan Heller, who studies hair-cell function and regeneration at the Stanford School of Medicine, the results will be difficult to translate to patients. "It is virtually impossible to diagnose a reduction of auditory nerve fibers in hearing-loss patients." The risk of tumor formation, an issue carried by all potential embryonic stem-cell therapies, are also carried by this treatment, he says.
Previously: Stanford chair of otolaryngology discusses future regenerative therapies for hearing loss, Stefan Heller discusses stem cell research on Science Friday and Growing new inner-ear cells: a step toward a cure for deafness