Scientists ID stem cells to repair hearing loss

A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says that stem cells taken from a region of the brain could be transplanted into the ear and used to repair a common form of damage that leads to hearing loss in the elderly. The stem cells have the same characteristics as inner ear hair cells and can reproduce.

Damage to inner ear hair cells from aging or overstimulation causes hearing loss in 10 percent of the world's population. And scientists are seeking cells that can cure the ailment in the lining of the lateral ventricle of the brain. Those same cells could also be a source for new therapies treating the central nervous system. Dr. Dongguang Wei at the University of California-Davis is leading the team.

"The present paper identifies a possible single tissue source for both the elements that may be lost from the damaged sensory tissues of the inner ear," Professor Andy Forge of the University College London Ear Institute told the BBC. "However, there might be questions as to whether taking cells from the brain to replace inner ear hair cells would prove clinically acceptable."

- read the report from the BBC