Given the promise they have shown for treating neurodegenerative disease and different types of damage to the brain, it is likely that stem cells have the potential to combat hearing loss. Researchers have recently shown how combining neural stem cells with a specific compound, called morin hydrate, can protect against hearing loss.
Unlike cells of many other organs, hair cells in the inner ear, referred to as cochlear hair cells, are not able self-renew once they are damaged. As a result, damage to these cells of the inner ear increase vulnerability to hearing loss. Replacing these cells with stem cells, has therefore been thought to be a good way to try to reduce this vulnerability.
A major challenge in using stem cells to combat disease or disorders such as hearing loss is finding the best way to transplant the cells so that they survive, differentiate, and function. In this study, published last month in the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, scientists set out to determine if combining neural stem cells with morin hydrate may make those stem cells more viable and increase their ability to help with hearing loss. Morin hydrate was chosen because it has been associated with a number of beneficial effects, including the suppression of inflammation and cancer activity.
The results of their study showed that morin hydrate was able to improve neural stem cell survival and proliferation and that the compound enabled the types of connections between cells that are necessary for proper neuronal functioning and the protection against hearing loss. In addition to the positive impact of morin hydrate on the stem cells themselves, the compound was also shown to prevent hearing loss that resulted from gentamicin, a specific type of antibiotic.
These initial results demonstrate that the inclusion of morin hydrate in stem cell therapy has promise. Future research will help determine how the combination of morin hydrate and stem cells could be used to address hearing loss and potentially other disorders.
He, Q., Jia, Z., Zhang, Y., & Ren, X. (2017). Morin hydrate promotes inner ear neural stem cell survival and differentiation and protects cochlea against neuronal hearing loss. Journal of Cellular & Molecular Medicine, 21(3), 600-608.