If someone tells you to stop listening to that ridiculously loud music on your iPod because they think you’re gonna go deaf, it might be a good idea to do that (don’t worry I am guilty of it as well..), but for those who can’t resist the thumping of the bass, the incredibly mind spinning surround sound musical experience, have no fear. Harvard Medical School is here.
Researchers at HMS and Massachusetts Eye and Ear have found a potential cell therapy for those with damaged hair cells that are a big proponent of why we can hear. In mammals, hair cells are found in the organ of Corti, a part of the ear in the cochlea of the inner ear. These receptors of sound which are responsible for our sense of hearing do not directly send neural signals to our brain. Instead they amplify sound that enters the cochlea and then turn that sound vibration into electrical signals by causing ion channels to open in their cell membrane. An action potential is created when the cell is polarized and that sends signals to our brain. This is why we can jam out to our favorite tunes.
However, in mammals, these hair cells do not regenerate when damaged or destroyed…uh oh…however, researchers discovered a way to induce the regeneration of these hair cells that improved loss of hearing. Researchers developed a drug that when added to stem cells from mice ears could cause the hair cells to regenerate. When applying this drug to the deaf mice, their hearing improved where there were new hair cells. The drug works by inhibiting an enzyme called gamma-secretase. This enzyme works in a cell pathway, called the Notch pathway that, when active, inhibits surrounding cells from differentiating into a neuron. However, when the enzyme that works in this pathway is inhibited, the Notch pathway is inhibited thus causing supporting cells to turn into new hairs cells.
This new discovery excites researchers because it is the first case where hair cells were regenerated in adult mammals of any organism. This could be used as a future drug to cure hearing loss in individuals, so blasters of music, you have less to worry about….but be careful! Research is always in motion, dynamic, and awesome.
Here is the article found on Harvard Medical School’s website: http://hms.harvard.edu/news/hearing-restored-after-noise-damage-1-9-13