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Regenerating sensory hair cells to restore hearing to noise-damaged ears

Scientists from Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Harvard have identified a drug that may reverse permanent deafness by triggering a regeneration of sensory hair cells in the inner ear, according to findings (subscription required) recently published in Neuron.

According to a release, researchers applied a drug to the cochlea of deaf mice. The drug had been selected for its ability to generate hair cells when added to stem cells isolated from the ear. It acted by inhibiting an enzyme called gamma-secretase that activates a number of cellular pathways. The drug applied to the cochlea inhibited a signal generated by a protein called Notch on the surface of cells that surround hair cells. These supporting cells turned into new hair cells upon treatment with the drug. Replacing hair cells improved hearing in the mice, and the improved hearing could be traced to the areas in which supporting cells had become new hair cells.

In a recent entry on the Stanford Initiative to Cure Hearing Loss blogStefan Heller, MD, PhD, comments on the findings and how the research could pave the way to treatments for this kind of hearing loss in humans. He says:

This report is another step in the right direction and it shows that it might be possible to induce an inherent regenerative potential of cochlear supporting cells.
It will be exciting to see follow up studies of this work, particularly studies that map the time window, when this treatment is effective after the insult. Right now, it appears that the treatment only works directly after the insult. The systemic side effects of this particular kind of drugs are substantial as well, so localized treatment is probably the only feasible way. Also, the mechanisms of recovery, particularly the morphology of the recovered organ of Corti needs to be investigated in more detail.

Particularly interesting will be to find out which cells respond to the treatment and what this response looks like. All this is very important before we can make an assessment whether this strategy would be useful in the future in humans.

As the post notes, researchers at Stanford have made considerable progress towards the understanding of inner ear hair cells and hair cell regeneration. Scientists here are engaged in ongoing efforts to create biological cures for major forms of inner ear hearing loss within the foreseeable future.

Previously: Stanford researcher comments on the use of human embryonic stem cells to restore hearing, Stefan Heller discusses stem cell research on Science Friday and Growing new inner-ear cells: a step toward a cure for deafness

32 Responses to “ Regenerating sensory hair cells to restore hearing to noise-damaged ears ”

  1. Chris Kefer Says:

    I have had unilateral hearing since the age 11. My right ear hair cells were scarred by ear infections. Please add me to your email list.

  2. Richard Lind Says:

    I have lived with sudden hearing loss for the last decade and have been following this type of research for a number of years. Please put me on your email list and when human trials begin please put me at the front of the line.

  3. Nadira Norris Says:

    Hi, I have had a hearing loss most of my life. I would love nothing but to hear like everyone else as i feel excluded in this world. i seem not to fit in the hearing world nor the deaf community. Please add my name to the human trial.

    Thank you

  4. Rena Reid Says:

    I have had gradual hearing loss for a number of years, and now have almost no hearing in my right ear. I could not hold back tears when I read about researchers’ findings. Please add my name to your list.

    Many Thanks

  5. Mike Mannon Says:

    I am 50 years old and suffer from major hearing loss.. I have for 35 years my hearing test results, If any use.. Please place me on your e-mail list and God speed with this work….

  6. Blanche Frey Says:

    My daughter lost her hearing suddenly due suddenly at 18 years of age. She is now 23 and we have been searching for new research to help with regeneration of hair cells. Please add us to your email and keep us informed as to new hope. Thank you.

  7. Jennifer Vickery Says:

    Hi, I have no hearing in my right ear which was discovered at the age of 8. I’m very interested in this new research. Please add me to your mailing list, Cheers.

  8. bladimir Says:


  9. Simon finch Says:

    I lost my hearing suddenly in my right ear on the 11th August 2012, my doctors said it could have been a virus that had ruined my hair cells, I also suffer from tinnitus.
    I am from England, Great Britain,
    What do I have to lose if I apply for the trials to see if I can get my hearing back,
    Nobody seems to want to listen here when I ask my GP’s about trials,
    Who do I approach to see about the trials in England.
    Thank you
    Simon Finch

  10. Christian B Says:

    I am practically deaf in my right ear and have been looking for a way to get normal hearing again. Please put me on your mailing list so that I can follow this research as it sounds very promising.

  11. Jay Akhave Says:

    I lost my left ear hearing suddenly about 15 years ago at the age of 47. Doctors don’t accurately know the cause but end result was damaged hair cells. Please add me to your mailing list and let me know if you need any volunteers for studies in this area.

  12. Renee Chidiac Says:

    I lost hearing in my left ear as a result of a car accident 26 years ago. I crave having the ability to hear again. Please add me to your mailing list.

  13. Nayiri Says:

    I am 24 years old and have a hearing loss in my left ear for about a year and a half now due to exposure to loud noise at a shooting range. Along with the hearing loss, I suffer from CONSTANT tinnitus. I would absolutely love to participate in any trials.

  14. lin dysinger Says:

    My hearing was restored last thursday when I underwent a plastic surgery procedure. My ears were stuffed with a badadine gauze during the surgery. After the procedure my ears were flushed. I suffered hearing loss in 2008 and have been dealing with two hearing aids for about 5 years with very little improvement. I will be going in to have a hearing test – no doctor has any explanation of why this actually happened. Also, I understand this is not common since I was told I had suffered a baratrauma and the nerves were damaged. Any info n this subject??

  15. Esmaeil Says:

    I am a 67 year old male. I suffer from progressive hearing loss mostly caused by exposure to very loud noise at work. My right ear is almost deaf but I have still some hearing on my left ear. I use hearing aids on my both ear for about 10 years. Despite my high age please put me on your mailing address.
    I am ready for any trial studies .

  16. Mary Miller Says:

    If there is treatment on this, I’d love to hear more about it or get more involved. My daughter, now 14, has a moderate hearing loss in the right ear since she was an infant. I’d love her to have hearing back, like normal, in the ear. Thank you.

  17. Jens Wilhelm Says:

    I lost my hearing on my left ear 3 years ago at 52. Reasons are not clear. I am ready for trial studies in Germany.

  18. Russell Robles Says:

    I cannot hear out of my left ear, which started with a loud buzzing sound. My head was spinning & I was diagnosed with vertigo. The ear doctor said the sensory hairs in my cochlea were gone and thought the loss was caused by a virus so he gave me medication which did not help. I improved my balance by doing martial arts but I can not hear out of my ear. My eyes still feel heavy like a alligator looking out of the water. I need help so please let me know when human trials can begin.

  19. Carolyn Kessler Says:

    I lost my hearing over a long period of time starting in my early 20’s. I was told that allergies to all types of inhalants caused the loss. I would get very dizzy for 30 min. to an hour and then throw up. It took a couple of hours to recover each time. I took allergy shots for years. I have constant ringing in my ears and now my right ear is becoming severely impacted as well. Please add me to your email list and consider me for your trials.

  20. Kayla Says:

    My Dad needs this so desperately. He has had hearing loss for nearly 40 years and it is getting substantially worse. Please let me know what I can do to help him!

    Thank you.

  21. krishna Says:

    i lost my hearing 2 years back please add me in your mail. I’d love her to have hearing back, like normal, in the ear. Thank you.

  22. Nikolaj Says:

    My left Ear completly lost hearing 2 years back. please add me in your mail. I’d love her to have hearing back, like normal, in the ear. Doctors mean it was a virus. Thank you.

  23. Bhavita Says:

    Pls add me too

  24. Michele Says:

    Hello,I lost my hearing completely in my left ear when I woke up from 2 hours of sleep.I am so thankful it was only one ear. The doctor thinks it was either a virus or auto-immune as I have hashimotos thyroiditis. I also have ringing and hissing 24 hours a day (if you can not hear why can’t it at least be quiet?). Anyway I would love to be included in a trial and kept updated with emails. I live in the Pacific Northwest. thank you.

  25. anu mahesh Says:

    A month ago, one day I woke up to find my hearing in my right ear had gone. I went to the doctor and he said the it was due to a viral infection and put me on steroids. My hearing improved (especially word comprehension), but still I can hear certain letters and words only at 60db. I don’t know whether it will improve or stay the same.

  26. Maryann Says:

    Hi, I lost about 90 percent of my hearing 4 years ago on a flight from N.Y to Las Vegas( my home ). The doctors have no explanation and have suggested I get hearing aids. I have tried several to no avail….Please add me to your list and I would be all willing to be a volunteer for your studies. Thank You

  27. kiyimba Boris Says:

    My left ear been with no hearing since childhood… am so happy hearing about this and pli add me as one of your human experiments

  28. Mildred E. Dixon Says:

    I am a senior, who is full of life and not willing to stop living the life of a 30 year old.

    I lost about 50% of my hearing in the right ear. In July 2014 various noises began. I have seen (5) ENT’s and they all say the noise it due to hearing lost. Please add me to ypur list and I would love to be a volunteer for your studies.

    Thank You

  29. Elaine Alston Says:

    I am a 75 year old female and 4 yrs ago I woke up with no hearing in my left ear. I went immediately to the doctor and took predisone for a week in varying doses. Nothing worked and I am bothered greatly by not having stereo hearing. I would like to be placed in contact with someone in Colorado performing trials on the new hair regeneration. Please, I need help

  30. marie kotze Says:

    At the age of 6 we discovered that my grand daughter have had 100%hearing loss in her right ear because of no hair cells in her right ear since birth. Please add me to your mailing list. Thanks

  31. PaulCaplan Says:

    I lost the hearing in my left ear in November 2013 as a result of a virus. I have tinnitus 24/7 and suffer from dizzy spells from time to time.

    I have been told that my hearing cannot be restored and my tinnitus will always stay with me . I would like to be considered for any trials that might be available.

    Many thanks

  32. Elizabeth Kenoyer Says:

    I would do anything to restore my deafness due to meningitis. Please contact me with ANY information that could assist me. Thank you.

    Elizabeth Kenoyer


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