The delicate hairs inside our cochlea or inner ear help us hear. But the problem with these hair cells is that they perish over time. Also, these hairs cells get damaged if exposed to excessive noise. Unfortunately, any loss of these hair cells leads to permanent hearing loss since they don’t grow back on their own.
Now, scientists from MIT have developed a new regenerative therapy that can reverse hearing loss without using any cochlear implant or hearing aid.
MIT spinout biotechnology company Frequency Therapeutics injects small molecules into the inner ear to program progenitor cells which transform these cells into hair cells that help us hear. Progenitor cells are very similar to stem cells. They are biological cells and like stem cells, they too have the ability to differentiate into a specific cell type.
Frequency co-founder Jeff Karp believes that reversing hearing loss could become as common as Lasik surgery which helps restore people’s vision, where you’re in and out in an hour or two.
Karp said in the statement “I wouldn’t be surprised if in ten or 15 years, because of the resources being put into this space and the incredible science being done.”
In the experiments, scientists noted meaningful improvement in patients’ hearing, with some reporting improved speech perception after a single injection that lasted nearly two years.
Though the treatment needs further testing, the breakthrough is an encouraging milestone toward solving a problem that impacts hundreds of millions of people around the world.