Within the inner ear are delicate hair cells responsible for converting soundwaves into electrical impulses, which are then sent to the brain via the auditory nerve to be processed as sound. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when these hair cells are damaged or die. New research into the development of these hair cells has identified a certain protein that may hold the key to regeneration.
Damage to Hair Cells
Exposure to loud noises over an extended period of time can damage these delicate hair cells within the inner ear. When damaged, sensorineural loss is the result.
Unlike other hairs on your body, these cells cannot regrow, making any damage permanent.
Researchers have been working on creating ways to promote new hair cells to grow when the old ones become damaged as a potential cure for hearing loss.
Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) in collaboration with those at the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University in Israel were able to identify a specific protein that plays a large role in the development of hair cells. Their research was published in the September issue of the journal Development.
Ronna Hertzano, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Otorhinolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery at UMSOM, was the lead researcher of this study. She and her team utilized cutting-edge methods of gene expression in the hair cells of mice genetically modified to not produce the GFI1 protein. They demonstrated that without this specific protein, the embryonic hair cells were unable to develop fully.
“Our findings explain why GFI1 is critical to enable embryonic cells to progress into functioning adult hair cells,” explained Dr. Hertzano. “These data also explain the importance of GFI1 in experimental protocols to regenerate hair cells from stem cells. These regenerative methods have the potential of being used for patients who have experienced hearing loss due to age or environmental factors like exposure to loud noise.”
While this is a small study, the results are a promising development. Audiologists and researchers alike are excited for what the future holds for hearing loss treatment. To learn more about the available hearing loss treatments or to schedule an appointment with an audiologist, contact Victory Hearing & Balance Center today.