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Hair Cell Breakthrough Could Lead To Cure For Deafness

Scientists have successfully grown inner-ear hair cells in the laboratory, raising hopes of speeding up research into deafness and other hearing and balance conditions.

Damage to sensory hair cells, which can be regrown by birds, fish and amphibians but not generally by humans and other mammals, can cause deafness, tinnitus and balance problems.

Until now, research in this area has been difficult because the cells had to be taken from the internal ear, or created and then put into embryonic ears or grown via other tissues. But Zhengqing Hu and Jeffrey Corwin, from the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, have now managed successfully to create the cells "in vitro".

The two scientists developed a method of isolating cells from the inner ears of embryonic birds and perpetuating them in the lab.

They identified a critical transition in cell type that leads to the generation of hair cells.

When that transition was induced, the cultured cells turned into hair cells which were crowned by the characteristic "hair bundles" that detect sound and balance stimuli.

Source: Channel4
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