From growing the first human embryonic stem cells to developing patches for damaged hearts, stem cell research has advanced by leaps and bounds over the last two decades.
Dr. Samer Fakhri
, a notable ENT specialist and surgeon at the Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, has contributed to this burgeoning field by investigating if human stem cells can help those with sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL).
He is the Principal Investigator of the FDA-approved trial that’s assessing if stem cells will safely replenish damaged cells in the inner ear and improve functionality. The first phase of the study began in January 2014 and is on the verge of completion.
Dr. Fakhri previously stated, “We do not have evidence in humans to support the clinical use of stem cells in hearing loss. That is why such trials are important.”
The Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) is also developing ways to improve hearing loss by implanting hair cells into the inner ear.
A study conducted back in 2008 actually showed that human stem cells can improve animals’ hearing loss. UK researchers saw that mice infused with human stem cells almost completely restored their organ of Corti
–a complex epithelial structure in the cochlea that contains thousands of hair cells and converts sound vibrations into nerve impulses.
The other mice that didn’t receive this infusion, on the other hand, experienced substantial hair cell loss and problems with their organ of Corti. For now, though, we´ll have to eagerly wait and see if Fahkri’s investigation is a viable solution for hearing loss.