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Commentary

Human stem cells ameliorate auditory evoked responses in a model of neuropathy

Bryony Ariya Nayagam

Author Affiliations

Department of Otolaryngology, The University of Melbourne, Level 2, Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, 32 Gisborne Street, East Melbourne, Victoria, 3002, Australia

The Bionics Institute, 384-388 Albert Street, East Melbourne, Victoria, 3002, Australia

Stem Cell Research & Therapy 2012, 3:44  doi:10.1186/scrt135

Published: 8 November 2012

Abstract

Stem cells have been touted as a potential source of replacement cells for the treatment of severe-to-profoundly deaf individuals, including possible combined therapy with a cochlear implant. The success of such a therapy is dependent on a number of factors, but of critical importance is the functional incorporation of transplanted cells into the peripheral and central auditory systems. In a major breakthrough, Chen and colleagues recently reported the restoration of hearing thresholds by up to 46% following the transplantation of human pluripotent stem cells in a rodent auditory neuropathy model. Improved function was matched with new synapse formation in the peripheral and central aspects of the auditory system. The findings have promising clinical implications for patients with auditory neuropathy. Still to be elucidated are the long-term survival and function of transplanted cells, the precise mechanism by which hearing is restored, and whether further improvement is possible when combined with electrical stimulation from a cochlear implant.