Sunday, April 5, 2009

Embryonic Stem Cells May Cure Deafness

Embryonic Stem Cell Research is a very contentious topic especially since President Barack Obama recently signed an executive order that lifted a ban limiting federal funding. The ban that President Obama lifted had been in place since it was executed by former President George W. Bush in 2001. Many scientists and patients are very excited because stem cells can supposedly cure numerous ailments and afflictions. Many people are in favor of embryonic stem cell research because scientists have found results that could eventually lead to cure current afflictions with no known cure.

One of the afflictions that scientists recently found a link to stem cells is deafness. Deafness usually involves the loss of sensory receptors, labeled as hair cells because of their clumps of hair like protrusions and their related neurons. But as of March 29, 2009, Scientists from Sheffield University in the United Kingdom found stem cells that could be used to reverse this hearing loss. They were able to take stem cells from fetuses and change them to behave like early versions of the sensory hair cells and neurons in the human inner ear. These cells would assist scientists in advancing the technologies needed to transport them into damaged tissues, such as the cochlea, in order to restore the different cell types. This discovery could eventually help those people who have lost these sensory hair cells through noise damage or even some people who were born with hearing problems. So in all, scientists would be developing a treatment for deafness.

According to Dr. Rivolta, “these stem cells were taken from the developing cochleas of discarded human fetuses aged 9 to 11 weeks.” Dr. Rivolta’s team grew the cells in the laboratory and “more than half of them displayed the electrical and physical features of sensory hair cells which turn sound waves into nerve impulses. Other cells showed the properties of auditory neurons which transmit hearing messages to the brain.”

Scientists were exhilarated by being able to make neuron and hair cells because these cells were originally only created in the womb making it impossible to treat people who have lost these cells. This meant that curing deafness was unattainable.

As indicated by the BBC news article, “Currently, hair cell damage is irreversible and causes hearing problems in some 10% of people worldwide.” But embryonic stem cells can change this because they have the capability of becoming any human cell.

According to Dr. Ralph Holme, director of biomedical research at the Royal National Institute for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People said, “Stem cell therapy for hearing loss is still some years away but this research is incredibly promising and opens up possibilities by bringing us closer to restoring hearing in the future.” The exciting news about treatment for hearing loss is still at least ten years away. Along with Dr. Rivolta, the next step in the deafness treatment research is to look at how these cells respond when implanted into animal models. In the end, everyone hopes they may propose a path to restoring hearing for patients. Even though scientists still have many years of researching treatments for hearing loss, it is very exciting that they have come this far in treating hearing loss that was thought to be irreversible.

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  1. Wow! I cant believe how far along stem cell research has come in the last 8 years that it has been banned by the US. Some of the clients that I work with work on stem cell research and DNA testing and they have been kind enough to inform me of all of the amazing things that can come from this research and it truly is amazing. These scientists are amazing and obviously incredibly smart people who only look to help others through science. I can not understand why stem cell research was banned for so many years, but I am glad it is back.

    My dad is mostly deaf in one ear and to think that he may be able to eventually hear again in his bad ear thanks to stem cell research, is truly amazing. To think where stem cell research is going and the possibilities of it are amazing. Hopefully one day, people would not have to suffer from any type of nervous system disfunction. Great information!

  2. Okay I'm commenting on this one too.. THIS IS CRAZY!! I don't understand how strict Catholic's can have such a huge problem with this, especially when in turn they're making people's lives better. To me it just seems like these cells would be thrown away if they weren't used or studied. Right?

    It's crazy to think that all of this research has come so far, people that have been living their entire lives without hearing one thing will now be able to live normal lives and interact just like everyone else? I'm basically shocked by how dumb Bush is/was. If we're using these cells to change someone's life for the better how can you want to ban it? That's why I voted for Barack, he's the man, and wants to help deaf people, hell yeah.

    And D, all of the information sited in your write up is so good! People just need to keep pushing forward with this and from all of the articles I've read here it seems as if tons and tons of different conditions/defects will be reversed.

  3. I know it is such a great feeling to know that people who have never been able to hear before or lost their hearing will possibly be able to hear again!

    I know many people have problems with embryonic stem cell research and one of those problems is that curing some of the diseases that embryonic stem cells could possibly cure will allow people to live longer. But how about curing deafness? That will not allow people to live longer but will only allow people to enjoy their lives a little more.

    Think about all of the things that people who can not hear miss out on? Such as listening to music and hearing people talk. Could you imagine if you were deaf and you knew that there was a possibility that you may be able to hear again? That would be so exciting and I do not understand how someone could take that possibility away from someone and not want someone to have the chance of getting their hearing back.

    So I think embryonic stem cell research is acceptable in order to find a cure for deafness.

  4. As a person who works with the hearing impaired everyday, this is excellent news. To know that my students may finally be recognized as another child, not simply a handicapped child, is wonderful. Hopefully scientific research can successfully convert the stem cells into usable cells for those with hearing damage. Two fingers crossed!

  5. I had absolutely no idea that stem cells could be used in such a manner. I actually do understand the main belief behind why the religious institutions do not agree with embryonic stem cell research, but I am glad President Barack Obama is using his power to help society and the individuals he represents! Hopefully the simply luxury of hearing that most of us take for granted will now be able to be enjoyed by all!

  6. That's so exciting to see that scientists keep coming up with different ways in which embryonic stem cell research is a positive project. It gives more and more examples to those who do not believe in embryonic research to maybe reconsider how many people can benefit from it. Even though there is quite a bit of time before they can help humans with hearing problems, it's still so exciting to see new information.

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