Deafness cure breakthrough as scientists create tiny ear hairs from stem cells

May 16, 2010 at 11:30 am | Posted in Cochlear Implants, Possible cure for nerve deafness | 4 Comments
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I found this article in the Daily Mail after I was recovering from my operation.  Rather apt I think on the day I turn Bionic this article is released holding even more hope for the deaf and hard of hearing in the not so distant future!!

‘A cure for deafness could be on the horizon after scientists created specialised ear cells in the lab.

Grown in their thousands, the delicate hairs could one day be transplanted into the inner ear, restoring hearing to millions.

The breakthrough comes after ten years of painstaking research.

It may also allow some balance disorders to be eased and aid the search for drugs to prevent people from becoming hard of hearing.

Age-related hearing loss affects half of Britons aged 60 and over and there is currently no way of holding it at bay.

Hearing aids amplify sounds but nothing can give sufferers back the hearing they once had.

In the latest research at Stanford University, California, scientists perfected turning stem cells – blank cells which can turn into other cell types – into the delicate hairs found in the inner ear. ones.

The linch-pin of hearing and balance, thousands of these hairs help convert sound vibrations into nerve impulses which are decoded by the brain.

Ageing, noise and general wear and tear make them wither away and, until now, there was no way of replacing them.

The hairs made in the lab from mice looked and acted like the real thing, the journal Cell reports.

Researcher Stefan Heller said: ‘We knew it was really working when we saw them in the electron microscope.

‘They looked more or less like they were taken out of the ear.’

If the same technique can be applied to human cells, within ten years it may be possible to transplant-the delicate hairs to restore hearing.

Using slivers of the patient’s skin as a source of the stem cells means that any hairs generated would be a perfect match for their body.

It also raises the tantalising possibility of creating drugs to coax the ear into growing more hair cells of its own accord.

Professor Heller said: ‘We could now test thousands of drugs in a dish. Within a decade or so, we could reap the benefits.’

Lead researcher Dr Kazuo Oshima said: ‘We’ve made hair-like cells in a Petri dish. This is an important step towards the development of future therapies.’

Dr Ralph Holme, of the Royal National Institute for Deaf People, said the news was ‘really exciting’.

RNID-funded researchers at Sheffield University have turned human stem cells into hair cells but these were not as much like the real thing as the U.S. ones.’

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Good things come to those who wait…..and wait…and wait

March 15, 2010 at 7:49 pm | Posted in BBC See Hear, Cochlear Implants | 7 Comments
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Quite a lot has happened since my last post and it has all been quite hectic.

Firstly……..I got the good news I wanted and have been given the go ahead for the operation.  Woopeee.  I go into hospital on the 12th May and have the operation on the 13th May and hopefully I will be back home on the 14th May.  Assuming everything goes well and I heal well I should be ‘switched on’ between 3 to 6 weeks later.  I can’t wait!!  Good timing for the world cup!! 😉

A lot of people I have been talking to about it are assuming I will come out of hospital and be able to hear again!!  Er, no!!  The op is to implant the device that will send the sound to my cochlear.  I still need to have the external processor ‘switched on’ to allow the clever stuff to happen.  Remember, I will always be deaf.  When I sleep at night and have a shower etc……..I will not be able to have the unit on so I will not be able to hear.  As long as the device works when I wear it I think I can cope with that!!! 🙂  If you want to have a listen to hear what I can hear at the moment then have a look at this link.  I showed it to my wife and she said; ‘they’re just mumbling……I cant work out anything they are saying!!’  Welcome to my world 🙂

 Example of  High Frequency Hearing Loss

On my return from the hospital I had a letter in the post from Access to Work allowing me a budget to improve the acoustics in my gym and therefore improve my ability to hear my clients.  Great news.  I honestly don’t think I could have kept my business going forward without their help.  If you work for someone then get your employer to contact them because they could help with all sorts of assistance in improving your ability to work.  Likewise if you are self employed contact them yourself ( I got my wife to phone) and they will assess you to see if you qualify for help.  You don’t know if you don’t ask!!

Next in my crazy world came my starring role on the BBC’s See Hear Programme.  I was kind of dreading this but they actually did a really good job.  If you missed it then have a look on the BBC iplayer.  My eldest daughter, Lucy, seems to want to get on camera as much as possible 🙂

Now I have to sit around (chance would be a fine thing!) and wait for my operation.  Two of my online CI buddies have just had their operations and I am really looking forward to their ‘switch on’.  As part of my research I wanted to be as prepared as possible and one of them sent me a link to an actual operation!!  So I watched it.  At the time I wished I hadn’t but now I have had time to take it all in I’m glad I know what exactly they will be doing to me.  Have a look if you want.  After the jump click on high resolution as it seems to play better.  Happy viewing.  Click here for the Implant Operation.

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