Scientists Develop A Novel Approach To Treat Hearing Loss

Posted: Apr 8 2018, 5:11am CDT | by , Updated: Apr 8 2018, 5:15am CDT, in Latest Science News


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Scientists Develop a Novel Approach to Treat Hearing Loss
Credit: Matthew Savino

New method can restore cells deep inside the ear and could help millions of people who suffer from hearing loss

Researchers have found a new efficient way to repair damaged cells and nerves inside the ear. It is actually an improved drug-delivery method and could restore hearing for millions of elderly and others who suffer from hearing loss.

Hearing loss is a common problem worldwide. Almost two-thirds of people over 70 years and 17 percent of all adults in the United States suffer hearing loss and the problem is caused by the damage to the inner ear.

Our ability to hear different sounds and voices depends on a complex series of events that occur in the ear. Sensory cells that transmit vibrations and synapses, which connect these cells, break down over time and lead to hearing loss.

Researchers from University of Southern California and Harvard have designed a molecule by combining 7,8-dihydroxyflavone, which mimics a protein critical for development and function of the nervous system, and bisphosphonate, a type of drug that sticks to bones. The new molecule restored synapses as well as sensory cells and neurons in mouse ear tissue, which are essential to hearing. Specifically, it targeted the cochlea, a snail-like structure in the inner ear which contains the sensory organ of hearing.

"What's new here is we figured out how to deliver a drug into the inner ear so it actually stays put and does what it's supposed to do, and that's novel," said co-author Charles McKenna and chemistry professor at USC. "Inside this part of the ear, there's fluid constantly flowing that would sweep dissolved drugs away, but our new approach addresses that problem. This is a first for hearing loss and the ear. It's also important because it may be adaptable for other drugs that need to be applied within the inner ear."

Because the molecule was tested on mice, the implications for treating humans are still unclear. However, researchers say that the method has a potential to improve hearing abilities and also quality of life.

“We’re not saying it’s a cure for hearing loss,” said McKenna. “It’s a proof of principle for a new approach that’s extremely promising. It’s an important step that offers a lot of hope.”

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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