Stem cells restore hearing in deaf gerbils, human testing few years off: study

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TORONTO - U.K. researchers say they have restored hearing in deaf gerbils using human embryonic stem cells.

The scientists at the University of Sheffield say that while more study is needed, the work is a first step towards testing the technique in people with certain kinds of hearing loss.

Lead researcher Dr. Marcel Rivolta says the human stem cells were able to regenerate auditory nerve cells in the gerbils that had been chemically damaged to leave the animals deaf.

Rivolta says testing about 10 weeks after the treatment showed electrical signals generated by sound were received by the animals' brains.

The researchers suggest the stem cell therapy might be used in conjunction with a cochlear implant, a device now surgically placed inside a person's ear to enhance hearing.

The study was published Wednesday in the online edition of the journal Nature.

Organizations: University of Sheffield

Geographic location: TORONTO, U.K.

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