There is a way in reversing deafness, and the answer is stem cells. The problem is that although stem cells will be converted into auditory neurons, they could divide too quickly and cause cancer.
Scientists have managed to control the rapid division in a petri dish. At Rutgers University, the assistant professor in cell biology and neuroscience, Kelvin Y. Kwan says that it’s a dangerous technique. Sure, they can put stem cells to replace neurons, but the side effects can include a rapid reproduction of stem cells. They must find a way to replace cells in therapies that will not cause these serious side effects.
Once They Are Lost, Auditory Neurons Cannot Regenerate
The cells in the inner ear are called hair cells and they convers sounds into signals to go to the brains. Losing the ability to hear can be caused by too much exposure to noises and hair cells are lost in time, damaging neuronal processes. The auditory neurons degenerate and once lost, they cannot regenerate.
Almost 15% of American population suffers from hearing loss, and Kelvin Y. Kwan adds that people don’t realize that they don’t properly hear until they get tested.
Kwan informs us that the Stem Cell Reports show scientists that have so far overexposed the NEUROG1 gene so that they could turn stem cells from the inner ear into auditory neurons. But this gene is also used in making other type of neurons out of stem cells and they also divide too fast.
Scientists Might Have Found the Answer
Another discovery was made: the chromatin, which is a complex of DNA, RNA and protein, can influence NEUROG1. It might also influence the rapid division of stem cells. For the time being, they’re experimenting with drugs and cultures in petri dishes.
The scientists’ focus is to change the chromatin state at the beginning and then overexpress NEUROG1. This way, they should prevent a rapid division of stem cells.