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.
Learn how stem cells can help reduce noise-induced hearing loss here.
When cochlear cells within the ear are damaged from exposure to high levels of noise, long-term, permanent hearing loss can occur. Because this hearing loss is associated with damaged cells, researchers have reasoned that replacing those cells with stem cells may provide a means for reversing noise-induced hearing loss. A recent study, published in the journal Neurobiological Disorders has shown that the transplant of epithelial stem cells can in fact help with this type of hearing loss.
The stem cells that were used in the study were isolated from the tongue and were shown to have the ability to survive and proliferate outside the body. Once transplanted, they were also shown to survive and to integrate themselves appropriately.
The auditory brainstem response (ABR) threshold test was used before and after transplantation to determine whether the stem cells actually impacted hearing loss level. The ABR test is a neurological test that assesses whether the brainstem responds to auditory clicking sounds. The test was developed in 1971 and is now the most widely used test for evaluating responses to auditory stimuli. The test reveals the threshold at which noise can produce a response, with lower thresholds indicating better auditory functioning.
Compared to before the transplantation, tests performed 4 weeks after transplantation showed that the stem cell transplants were associated with lower ABR thresholds. Thus, not only did the stem cells survive, proliferate, and integrate normally within the ear, but they were also associated with improved auditory abilities.
These results indicate that stem cells are a promising candidate for reversing long-term hearing loss that is caused by noise-induced damage to cells of the inner ear. Further research will help to clarify the best ways these cells may be used to reverse hearing loss and to what extent their application can benefit those who have suffered noise-induced hearing loss. It is also possible that the relevant research will help reveal ways that stem cells can be used to help those who suffer from other types of hearing loss as well.
Read more about how stem cells treated with morin hydrate can protect against hearing loss here.
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