Sufferers of auditory dysfunction, rejoice!
Researchers at an outfit in Seattle say that they have found a way to counter the hearing loss that comes from going to too many concerts, listening to your iPod too loud, or just mowing too many lawns.
What happens when you punish your ears in such a way (or if you simply grow older, as most people tend to do) is that you lose hair cells in your inner ear. Unlike other kinds of living creatures, mammals can’t regrow such cells, which is why some people gradually go deaf.
A team of scientists at Seattle’s Sound Pharmaceuticals, though, is reporting research suggesting that those cochlear hair cells can be regrown. It’s all done at the molecular level: Some cells divide and, in the process, make sure that the hair cells don’t regenerate. By blocking the actions of these cell division-driving molecules, the scientists can ensure that those tiny damaged cells can be replaced by new ones.
Such treatments have been successful in regrowing inner-ear hair cells in mice. But that’s step one in the process. Just having new cells isn’t enough: Those cells need to be engineered to do what they’re supposed to do, which is a far trickier process. Obviously, more work needs to be done.
The scientists are ecstatic that they have achieved initial regeneration; and they estimate that by the time today’s iPod generation needs it, help will be ready.