Hearing loss is a disabling condition that significantly alters lifestyle, leading to depression and social isolation. Around 466 million people worldwide suffer from debilitating hearing loss, 34 million of whom are children.
Hearing loss can result from genetic causes, traumatic injuries, certain infectious diseases, chronic ear infections, the use of particular drugs, exposure to excessive noise and aging. The treatments commonly used to date involve surgery in case of injuries and cochlear implantation if patients are suffering from severe hearing loss.
Hearing impairment – the most common human sensory deficit – is mainly caused by damage to or loss of hair cells in the inner ear, which are responsible for sending the perceived acoustic signals from the cochlea of the inner ear to the brain. Unfortunately, once damaged or lost, hair cells and auditory neurons are unable to regenerate.
In recent decades, the potential of stem cells has finally been revealed and many researchers decided as early as 2008 to investigate whether these cells can also restore the auditory system.
Focusing on mesenchymal stem cells and their ability to differentiate into many types of cells but, above all, on their ability to detect damaged cells and regenerate them, researchers at Stanford Medicine, Rutgers University, MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Harvard identified a treatment option for hearing loss.
Under the right conditions, mesenchymal stem cells can develop into cells that are significantly similar to hair cells. In addition, they are able to differentiate into auditory neurons. These results demonstrate the potential of stem cells to restore the hearing system, even though they are still in the clinical study phase. Multipotent stem cells therefore appear to be the ideal resource for the regeneration of auditory neurons and hair cells.
The umbilical cord is a valuable source of multipotent stem cells, both haematopoietic (blood) and mesenchymal (tissue). Consult our website or contact us for more information on the therapeutic potential of stem cells and the conservation of this important resource.