In a revolutionary scientific study, scientists have been able to re-grow hair cells damaged by age or excessive noise.

Hair cells in the ear are crucial for hearing, they pick up noises that enter the ear canal and relay them to the brain. These hair cells are susceptible to damage from loud noises, aging, infections, diabetes and other illnesses. When they are not replaced, hearing becomes impaired and devices such as hearing aids are required to help the user to continue to hear properly.

In a new study scientists discovered that ERBB2 is the protein responsible for the growth of new hair cells. They tested the effect of viruses, drugs and genetic modifications that triggered ERBB2 on the hair cells of newborn mice, and were able to successfully regrow damaged hair cells.

The drugs used in these tests are already used to regenerate eyes and pancreas by stimulating cells.

The process of repairing hearing is a complex problem and requires a series of cellular events,’ lead author Professor Patricia White said.

You have to regenerate sensory hair cells and these cells have to function properly and connect with the necessary network of neurons.

This research demonstrates a signaling pathway that can be activated by different methods and could represent a new approach to cochlear regeneration and, ultimately, restoration of hearing.” Professor Patricia White lead author of the study published in the European Journal of Neuroscience.

Although restoring hearing is a complex problem, this new study is an exciting step towards ultimately restoring damaged hearing.

In 2013, 380,000 kiwis (9% of the population) were affected by hearing loss1.

Hearing loss can be caused by many things, including smoking, loud noises and general aging. It is also suggested that children who are exposed to smoking in the womb or as infants are twice as likely to be deaf2.

Full article available here:

1 Stats NZ

2 Daily Mail