WEDNESDAY, Jan. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Although loud noise can result in irreversible hearing loss, researchers in Boston partially restored the hearing of mice with noise-induced deafness by regenerating damaged sound-sensing hair cells in the inner ear.
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The study authors said their findings might one day help lead to the development of new treatments for people with acute hearing loss.
The team of researchers, led by Dr. Albert Edge of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, manipulated a cellular pathway that controls hair cells, known as the Notch pathway. They found that new hair cells formed after stem cells in the inner ear of the mice were treated with a drug that blocks this pathway.
The study was published in the Jan. 9 issue of the journal Neuron.
"We show that hair cells can be regenerated from the surrounding cells in the cochlea," Edge explained in a journal news release. "The new hair-cell generation results in a recovery of hearing in the region of the cochlea where the new hair cells appear."
The study's authors concluded the treatment holds promise for people with noise-induced deafness. "The significance of this study is that hearing loss is a huge problem affecting 250 million people worldwide," Edge concluded.
Experts often point out, however, that results achieved during tests conducted on animals don't necessarily translate to humans.
-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
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SOURCE: Neuron, news release, Jan. 9, 2013