Scientists at Oregon Health & Science University have successfully produced a functional auditory hair cell in the inner ear of the mouse. This accomplishment could lead to new therapy in the future for treatment of hearing loss. Hearing loss typically is caused by death or dysfunction of these hair cells within the cochlea. The death or dysfunction occurs as we age and can occur as a result of injury from loud noises or certain diseases.
The scientists were able to produce auditory hair cells by transferring a key gene into the developing inner ears of mice. The scientist determined that in the implanted ears of the postnatal mouse there were a larger number of hair cells than in a non-implanted ear. It was not determined whether this gene transfer of hair cells into a deaf mouse will lead to the production of healthy cells that will allow for hearing. This study is an important first step in looking at the possibility of implanting hair cells into an already dysfunctional ear.