Humans are born with around 15,000 hair cells — think tiny, sound-sensing fibers — in each ear.
The cells can’t regenerate, though. Over time, loud noises, certain medications, and chemotherapy can kill them off and cause hearing loss. But scientists working with a mouse model and a donated cochlea have found a possible way to regenerate hair cells.
Here’s what biomedical engineer Jeff Karp of Brigham and Women’s Hospital said about the work, published in Cell Reports.
Where did you turn to study hair cell regeneration?
We started in the intestine because it’s the most regenerative tissue in the human body. The entire lining of the intestine regenerates every four or five days. In the lining of the intestine, there’s a stem cell that’s really the workhorse making all the cell types in the epithelium.
We took the molecules we used in the intestine and used them in inner ear and it worked.
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