Researchers enable deaf gerbils 'to hear again'

19 September 2012

Scientists based in the UK have been successful in restoring hearing to deaf gerbils, in a development which could represent a significant medical breakthrough.

Researchers at the University of Sheffield were able to use human embryonic stem cells in order to allow the rodents to hear again.

A total of 18 gerbils with complete deafness in one ear were able to recover an average of 46 per cent of their hearing following the stem cell therapy.

"If this was a human patient, it would mean going from being so deaf as to be unable to hear a lorry or truck on the street to being able to maintain a conversation," research leader Marcelo Rivolta commented.

"What we have shown here is functional recovery using human stem cells, which is unique."

The team is confident that the success of the experiment could allow medical professionals to reverse the effects of an intractable form of deafness caused by nerve damage in the near future.

In fact, Mr Rivolta believes that human patients could receive cell therapy to treat hearing loss within "a few years".

Posted by Jeanette Royston

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