Great news for those in hope of restoring lost hearing for themselves or maybe for a relative; researchers from Harvard Medical School have discovered a drug cocktail that can regenerate hair cells in the inner ear that will bring back the hearing ability. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study detailed how the researchers reprogrammed genetic pathways in mice to regrow hair cells, raising hopes for potential treatment in humans.
Human beings are currently unable to regenerate their hair cells (unlike some species of fish, birds, and reptiles), however, in a previous study, Zheng-Yi Chen, an HMS associate professor, had his team make other cells develop the characteristics of hair cells; researchers activated the same pathways using newly developed chemical compounds, removing genes that suppressed the activation of a genetic pathway that allows for hair cell growth in the inner ear — by delivering their drug cocktail directly into the inner ear of adult mice, they were able to regenerate new hair cells that appeared to be fully functional.
According to Chen, “These findings are extremely exciting because, throughout the history of the hearing loss field, the ability to regenerate hair cells in an inner ear has been the holy grail,”
The treatment will be tested on larger animals before conducting clinical trials on humans — If proven successful, the study could have a profound impact on those who have lost part of their hearing. The researchers aim to refine the gene therapy delivery method and combine it with surgical procedures to bring a new treatment into the clinic, which is currently not available for hearing loss sufferers. This study offers a tantalizing ray of hope for people struggling with their hearing and may pave the way for future clinical applications.