We do not yet know how to treat deafness. We are able to support it, by improving hearing, via a cochlear implant, or an external device, but not to truly restore hearing. However, Harvard researchers have just published a study in the journal PNASrelayed by 20 minutes. They would have found a lead.
Deafness mainly affects people over 65 in France, 65% see their hearing decline. In the world, Inserm reports that 466 million people live with hearing loss. The latter can be of genetic origin, due to age, or to an ear trauma caused by exposure to excessively loud sounds that damage the inner ear.
Reprogram the hair cells
In the ear, we have the eardrum, and the cochlea which is behind and which houses very small eyelashes: it is she who is responsible for our perception of sounds. These small eyelashes are also called “hair cells”, they are very sensitive, they capture the vibrations that come from the outer ear and send electrical information to the auditory nerve which allows the brain to interpret this sound. But they are also very fragileand when they die (due to too much noise or aging), they do not renew themselves.
But scientists have managed to reprogram these cells in mice, to recreate new eyelashes in their ears and, in effect, giving them new hearing. They did this using a technique called siRNA, a genetic manipulation that allows cells to regenerate. That said, this is only a first step, and it could be much more complicated to do in humans.
Sources: PNAS, 20 Minutes, Inserm
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