OMBUDSMAN ALERT: Finally, A Drug Treatment for Hearing Loss?

“New Approach Promotes Growth of Sound-Detecting Hair Cells,” Breaking News From M.I.T


fThis Ombudsman again thanks Jason Pontin, editor of the “MIT Technology Review,” for his permission to quote directly from his publication this time on the breakthrough discovery of a possible drug treatment for hearing loss.

The breakthrough was announced earlier this year by MIT scientists together with researchers at the Harvard University Medical School, including doctors at their associated hospitals Brigham and Woman’s Hospital(BWH) and Massachusetts Eye and Ear.
According to MIT, “Within the inner ear, thousands of hair cells detect sound waves and translate them into nerve signals that allow us to hear speech, music, and other every-day sounds. Damage to these cells is one of the leading causes of hearing loss, which affects 48 million Americans. Each of us is born with about 15,000 hair cells per ear, but noise exposure, aging, and some antibiotics can cause them fatal harm. Humans, unlike some other animals, don’t regenerate these cells when this happens. However, the inner ear does contain progenitor cells that can be induced to multiply and turn into hair cells with a certain combination of drugs”

Using innovative laboratory techniques, the research team was able to generate an amazing 2,000 times greater number of hair cell progenitors than previous approaches had produced!

“Inspired by creatures in nature that exhibit tissue regeneration, the team…discovered a small molecule approach to control this process and found it worked for many tissues including the inner ear, to produce large populations of functional sensory hair cells.”
At long last, the  hope for a successful drug treatment to end the hearing loss experienced by many millions of individuals may be entirely realistic, since some of these researchers have already started a company called “Frequency Therapeutics,” which has licensed the MIT/BWH technology and plans to begin human testing within 18 months!
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