Hearing loss is usually the result of damage to sensory hair cells in the inner ear. Birds can reproduce these sensory hair cells on their own, but mammals, and therefore humans, do not have this ability. Researchers are therefore looking for a solution to convert stem cells into sensory hair cells to be able to restore hearing.
Congenital deafness versus acquired deafness.
Congenital deafness may be caused by prenatal rubella infection, rhesus incompatibility, and genetic inheritance, usually autosomal recessive. Certain conditions (e.g. Usher or Waardenburg syndrome) may also lead to congenital deafness.
In order to detect this damage as early as possible, newborn hearing screening (NHS) has been firmly rooted in Germany as a preventive screening since 2009 and is included in the service catalog of the statutory health insurance companies as part of the U-level screening. Newborns are tested for hearing ability as early as one or two days after birth and possible deafness or hearing loss is detected at an early stage.
Acquired hearing loss or acquired deafness must be distinguished from congenital deafness. This is mainly associated with inner ear damage or damage to the auditory nerve. On the one hand, this can be due to trauma caused by an accident, stroke, or brain tumor. Too much noise can also damage the ear. On the other hand, serious diseases such as meningococcal meningitis (meningitis), encephalitis (encephalitis), or tuberculosis (infectious diseases) are considered to be causative factors for acquired hearing loss. However, even so-called harmless childhood diseases, such as measles and scarlet fever, can attack the inner ear, including the auditory nerve, and severely damage hearing during a severe course of the disease.
Many people cannot hear.
Statistics show that about 16 percent of the population is affected by hearing loss. After all, that’s almost one-sixth of the United States. Worldwide, an estimated 250 million people suffer from hearing loss in the inner ear.
About 98% of deaf people have residual hearing, so it pays to use hearing aids such as hearing aids and cochlear implants.
Important note: Deaf people are not always deaf. About 98% of people who are not hearing impaired have residual hearing and therefore can use hearing aids such as hearing aids or cochlear implants. However, whether or not you can use it to understand what is being said varies in every way. With early support and care, young children can learn a common language by combining it with sign language.
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Stem cells against deafness.
The hair cells in the cochlea, the human inner ear, are highly specialized, but also very fragile. Noise, age, infection, and drugs (such as powerful antibiotics and cytostatic agents) can cause them to die. In contrast to birds, mammalian hair cells cannot simply grow back. The result: hearing loss involving the inner ear. American researchers recently succeeded in converting inner ear stem cells into hair cells using a mouse model. This restored limited hearing to previously deaf animals.
In searching for stem cells in the inner ear, researchers from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston used the properties of supporting cells that are located near the hair cells and retain some stem cell properties. In vitro, the supporting cells were first studied to see if they could be chemically stimulated to differentiate. This succeeded when the enzyme gamma-secretase was inhibited by the active component and therefore the signaling pathway was blocked.
In a second step, the method was tested on the cochlea of an explanted mouse before continuing the test in vivo in living animals. In the mice, the scientists introduced the active ingredient found in the cochlear fluid. As a result, they were able to observe an increase in hair cells. These developed from the supporting cells. Using brainstem audiometry, the researchers were able to demonstrate that the new hair cells were actually able to receive audio signals and transmit them to the auditory nerve. However, the scientists were unable to provide any information about individual auditory perception. The suspect, however, that the animals can at least hear loud sounds again.
Some research is needed before the procedure can be used for human treatment. However, the approach is promising. Today’s modern hearing aids can increase sound pressure in the inner ear. But they rely on the intact hair cells of the inner ear. Hearing prostheses such as cochlear implants do not rely on intact hair cells, but at least they require intact auditory nerves because sound waves are transmitted electronically rather than seasonally.
Embryonic stem cells for auditory nerve regeneration.
So researchers from the UK have gone one step further. Not only did they want to regenerate hair cells, but they also wanted to culture attached nerve cells with them. Since the adult auditory stem cells in the test series only had the potential for 25 replication cycles and therefore were not a reliable source of consistently regenerable stem cells, the researchers used embryonic stem cells in a mouse model. Dorsal. In cell culture, it is possible to generate precursors of sensory hair cells and the nerve cells associated with them. Scientists implanted the artificially generated cells into the cochlea of deaf gerbils. The animals were then observed for more than ten weeks. It has been shown that the nerve density in the rats’ ears increased, and after four weeks hearing began to improve. During the study period, these animals were able to perceive increasingly quiet sounds.
Even with this research work, there is still a long way to go for application in humans. British scientists used embryonic stem cells from mice. Ethically, the use of human embryonic stem cells is controversial because of the deliberate destruction of embryos through the collection of so-called totipotent cells. In addition, embryonic stem cells are very willing to divide and therefore increase the risk of tumors in the long run, in addition to the risk of rejection. Therefore alternatives for human use must be found. These could be stem cells from umbilical cord blood. Studies on patients with mucopolysaccharide storage disorders have already shown that cord blood stem cells can improve hearing in these patients.
The Future of Stem Cell Therapy.
Great strides have been made in medicine, and experts agree that stem cell therapy will be an integral part of regenerative medicine. The first successful studies have been conducted to demonstrate the regenerative potential of stem cells in cases of heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes. Stem cell therapy has been established for decades in cancer therapy.
Experts estimate that in the near future, every seventh person will need a stem cell-based therapy. Therefore, Vita 34 strives to make stem cell depots available to as many people as possible. Young and resilient stem cells from the umbilical cord are particularly well suited for this purpose. They are only available immediately after birth. A rare, risk-free, and unique opportunity. Learn now about the advantages Vita 34 offers for cord blood and cord tissue stem cells.