Scientists from Harvard University and the University of Southern California have given hope to people who are losing their hearing. They have developed a solution that is supposed to stay in the inner ear where it will help repair cells.
There are hair-like sensory cells called hair cells and their breakdown results in hearing loss. Hair cells, together with bundles of neurons transmit the cells’ vibrations to the brain. Fluid is constantly flowing through the part of the inner ear where these cells and neurons are located. This presents a problem, as any drugs placed there will be washed away.
Keeping this fact in mind, the scientists designed a molecule which combines 7,8-dihydroxyflavone and bisphosphonate. The later is a drug that sticks to bones whereas the former mimics a protein critical for development and function of the nervous system.
Tests have been conducted on mouse ear tissue in a petri dish. They show that the molecule not only stays firmly in place, but the neurons also responded to it by regenerating synapses that led to the repair of both the neurons and the hair cells.
The drug is relatively new and has not been used on living animals as of yet. However, the scientists are hopeful that it might lead to the cure for hearing loss. “We’re not saying it’s a cure for hearing loss,” says USC’s Prof. Charles E. 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.”
We will have to wait a little longer and for more results before we go ahead and actually call it a cure.