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Medicine Biotech Science

Stem Cells Turn Hearing Back On 101

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-heard-that dept.
puddingebola sends this excerpt from an article at ScienceNow: "Scientists have enabled deaf gerbils to hear again — with the help of transplanted cells that develop into nerves that can transmit auditory information from the ears to the brain. The advance, reported today in Nature, could be the basis for a therapy to treat various kinds of hearing loss. ... Rivolta and his colleagues knew that during embryonic development, a handful of proteins, including fibroblast growth factor (FGF) 3 and 10, are required for ears to form. So they exposed human embryonic stem cells to FGF3 and FGF10. Multiple types of cells formed, including precursor inner-ear hair cells, but they were also able to identify and isolate the cells beginning to differentiate into the desired spiral ganglion neurons. Then, they implanted the neuron precursor cells into the ears of gerbils with damaged ear neurons and followed the animals for 10 weeks. The function of the neurons was restored.'"
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Stem Cells Turn Hearing Back On

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  • by Spy Handler (822350) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @04:58PM (#41316889) Homepage Journal
    is there anything they can't do?
    • by minio (1640735)
      Well they cannot repair problems caused by mutations as they also carry that mutations (and you cannot use stem cells from someone else due to immune reaction). That require gene therapy. They also cannot cure cancer, virus or bacteria infections, deformities, schisophrenia, amnesia or cavities.
      • by ravenshrike (808508) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @08:07PM (#41318855)

        They could however theoretically seed new teeth. So if you were willing to yank the tooth and wait the 1-2 years for the new tooth to grow in, then they could be said to cure cavities.

        • by GNious (953874)

          They could however theoretically seed new teeth. So if you were willing to yank the tooth and wait the 1-2 years for the new tooth to grow in, then they could be said to cure cavities.

          Why yank the old one? You could not plant the see for the new one under the older tooth, and have it "pushed out" naturally?

          What about nerves? Would they be able to attach correct?

          • by hvm2hvm (1208954)
            Baby teeth can be pushed out since they don't have roots but the adult teeth are tightly locked to the jaw and can't be "pushed" out. Also, there probably won't be enough room for the new tooth to grow since the root of the other is in there.
    • by RandomFactor (22447) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @05:42AM (#41321507)

      Wake me when the do this with non-Embryonic stem cells. I don't have an embryonic me lying around on ice to harvest.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @05:00PM (#41316913)

    Congress will turn a deaf-ear to the pleas of those waiting for stem-cell research.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Maybe they can do something about this damn tinnitus....

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @05:05PM (#41316977)

    Has it been tested on leppards?

  • by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @05:10PM (#41317023)

    Many in the deaf community are against technologies that restore hearing.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deaf_culture#Values_and_beliefs [wikipedia.org]

    A positive attitude toward being deaf is typical in Deaf cultural groups. Deafness is not generally considered a condition that needs to be fixed.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Many in the deaf community are against technologies that restore hearing.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deaf_culture#Values_and_beliefs [wikipedia.org]

      A positive attitude toward being deaf is typical in Deaf cultural groups. Deafness is not generally considered a condition that needs to be fixed.

      but who can argue that it's not a disadvantage?

      • but who can argue that it's not a disadvantage?

        I can. I live in an apartment building with extremely noisy neighbors - I believe they are training elephants to dance upstairs. At any rate, I need to wear earplugs whenever sleeping, coding, reading .... pretty much all the time.

      • by firewrought (36952) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @12:29AM (#41320293)

        who can argue that it's not a disadvantage?

        The deaf, apparently. We live in a world of noise, and hearing is a sense that you can never turn off, so sometimes being deaf is a big plus.

        But mostly, this is the whole deaf culture thing. Consider that the main drawback to their disability is that it hinders communication with non-deaf, non-signing people. (That's why they need TTY, CC, etc.) Among themselves, the disability has very little practical impact (unlike, for instance, blind people), especially if you were born that way and it's all you've ever known. And of course, like all communities, the deaf have developed norms and conventions for interactions that are specialized to their unique situation.

        Got the picture so far? Now imagine you're deaf and your social circle is deaf and you frequently have to venture out into society at large where interaction with the others is always difficult and frequently gets you strange looks, unsolicited pity, and subhuman regard. The insurance guy down-talks you (as if your IQ was 70), and you get tried of folks repeatedly trying to communicate with you by SHOUTING LOUDER or talking reeeaa-aaaallll slo-wwww-lllley when all they need to do is talk straight and use a little common sense [illinoisle...vocate.org]. Do you see what's happening here? Interacting with your deaf peers is clearly "normal" and comfortable. The problem is with the world-at-large.

        Finally, that world-at-large comes to your door and wants to "fix" poor, miserable little you. Or worse, they want to "fix" your newborn child: do surgery on their head so they won't have to live with the same "disability" you do. Let that child grow up as one of the others such that there will always, always be that extra rift between you and your offspring. And what, over the long haul, will these "fixes" do to your community but choke it out and make it disappear?

        That is very, very threatening.

        • by narcc (412956) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @05:23AM (#41321451) Journal

          "Deaf culture" is the reason that the deaf community suffers from severe unemployment and illiteracy. Deaf culture is the reason so few deaf people pursue higher education. It's what keeps competent teachers and administrators out of deaf schools (you know, the ones who aren't "deaf enough"). Worst of all, it breeds fear and hatred; keeping the deaf community isolated.

          Deaf culture is destroying any hope the deaf community has for a brighter future.

          Deaf culture is a disease far worse than the disability. It needs to be choked out. It needs to disappear. Deaf culture is the REAL threat.

          • "Deaf culture" is the reason that the deaf community suffers from severe unemployment and illiteracy. Deaf culture is the reason so few deaf people pursue higher education. It's what keeps competent teachers and administrators out of deaf schools (you know, the ones who aren't "deaf enough"). Worst of all, it breeds fear and hatred; keeping the deaf community isolated.

            It's like any community that becomes too insular... you see the same dynamics with white supremacist, for example. (For instance, both groups frown on "mixed" marriages b/t someone in their group and someone outside of it.)

            Deaf culture is a disease far worse than the disability. It needs to be choked out. It needs to disappear.

            Err... maybe it just needs to learn to open up. Take some diversity training or something. :O

          • by CODiNE (27417)

            The #1 thing I try to explain to "deaf power" people... is that audism goes both ways.

            Most dictionaries or sign language books explain audism as oppression of deaf, or people who believe that the hearing world and way of doing things is "better".

            It's a common problem in oppressed communities to focus on the external causes of their problems and start to blame the oppressors for everything. There's 2 types of racism, thinking less of a particular group, or going the opposite way and favoring that group inst

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That is probably an acceptance measure. If you do not accept who you are you will become depressed.

      I would bet cold hard cash if there was a machine that cured blindness or deafness in under 30 mins there would be a line out the door. Oh sure there would be those who didnt want it. But I would not bet against a line out the door...

      In fact in your list they 'heavily rely on technology'. Meaning they are after ways to communicate. 'show up early to get a good view', etc ,etc etc...

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Wyatt Earp (1029)

        I work in Special Education technology support and have talked to some Deaf/Hard of Hearing specalists about this.

        A big chunk of the Deaf Culture wouldn't do it if it was free.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Would those same people then object to removing Deaf/Hard of Hearing from the list of disabilities/handicaps?

        • by Kaz Kylheku (1484) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @08:28PM (#41318993) Homepage

          So, would this same chunk of the deaf culture not mind if someone poked their eyes out?

          If it's okay not to hear, it must be okay not to see, right?

          Idiots ...

          What makes you emotionally comfortable is not the same thing as the truth.

        • by mug funky (910186) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @10:59PM (#41319915)

          as somebody who spends a good chunk of time dealing with hard-of-hearing subtitles, it seems a little... entitled for certain vocal members of the community to not accept a "cure" (i've seen x-men 3, i know the issues), but expect placing the burden of making adjustments to fit their condition on other people (necessarily - you can't make subtitles if you can't hear the dialogue).

          hopefully this wont be taken out of context as flamebait - i have much respect for the deaf community, i can understand it. but they above all other disability groups seem to be the most political. and as with all politics, it's not always something that makes sense. my wife's worked in disability (and has mild CP herself), so i'm not pulling facts out of my nethers but speaking from experience.

          personally, if i found myself unable to hear, i'd want it back as soon as possible. living without music after having lived with it for so long would be hellish. i'd probably become super grumpy and get all political and- ...oh, i get it.

      • by Antipater (2053064) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @06:17PM (#41317769)
        Deafness/blindness that occurred later in life (injury, disease, etc.), sure. But for people who were born that way, or who lost their hearing too early to remember, probably not so much. Opening a facet of the world to someone who has spent their entire life with no concept of it can be exceedingly shocking, even traumatic. A little on this is discussed in the wiki article on recovery from blindness [wikipedia.org], but a much more interesting account is written by Oliver Sacks about Virgil, a man whose vision was partially restored at age 50 after a lifetime of blindness (short on time, so I can't a link, but Google should have it somewhere). In a nutshell, Virgil's experience with sight was like trying to get your grandfather to play a video game. He understands what it is, but sees it as a novelty, something that's extraneous and totally unneeded. Worse, he's bad at it, and knowing that he's bad at it makes him frustrated when you try to get him to play.

        Virgil was not a happy man after his surgery. He lapsed into depression and pretty much lost the will to live. So be careful when you start proclaiming that people simply don't know what they're missing - they might be better off that way at thsi point.

        • by Kaz Kylheku (1484) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @08:43PM (#41319083) Homepage

          Virgil is an anecdote. We have no access to a parallel universe in which a "control Virgil" lives who hasn't had his sight restored. Maybe that Virgil would have lost the will to live anyway. Virgil died of pneumonia only four months after the surgery. So all that we know about his experience is confined to a few weeks or months following the restoration of sight, not how he would have coped in the long run.

        • by T Murphy (1054674)
          Can't get a link either, but there was an interesting post on reddit a few weeks ago by a hard-of-hearing teen who had just discovered he had been using crappy hearing aids. Although he could communicate just fine, his bad hearing aids prevented him from appreciating music. Having acquired proper hearing aids and discovered what music really is, he posted to reddit to ask how to approach exploring music. Not sure how things went for him or what music he liked, but he certainly seemed excited about the new w
    • by jbrandv (96371) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @05:28PM (#41317275)

      I lost hearing in my right ear several years ago from sudden hearing loss. I'd give almost anything to get it back. I have tinnitus in that ear so bad it almost hurts sometimes. Plus you have no idea how frustrating it is to hear a sound and NOT be able to tell where it came from. PLEASE fix it!

      • by jlechem (613317)
        I don't have the deafness, but I suffer from Tinnitus too and would also give anything to repair the damaged cells in my ears. Stuff like this gives me hope I might actually get cured of this some day.
    • by Tog Klim (909717) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @05:33PM (#41317327)
      I have partial hearing loss due to nerve damage in one ear when I was 30. I now wear a hearing aid in that ear. I would love to have my hearing fixed without an aid.
    • If someone invented a device that seamlessly granted me 360 degree vision of my surroundings I'd be all over it. That's not to say there's anything wrong with regular old 180 degree vision (ok, before the pedants come out, probably more like 240, but I digress). Just that having the extra perception would almost always be and advantage (and not the 'seamlessly' part, that means no more distracting than my regular peripheral vision, just covering a wider range).

    • Many in the deaf community are against technologies that restore hearing.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deaf_culture#Values_and_beliefs [wikipedia.org]

      A positive attitude toward being deaf is typical in Deaf cultural groups. Deafness is not generally considered a condition that needs to be fixed.

      That's fine and dandy. My inability to fly like superman isn't a disability - but if something could give me that ability, I sure as hell will seek it.

    • by epp_b (944299) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @06:06PM (#41317669)

      I can respect that.

      Something that you deal with all your life becomes normal for you. Changing that norm, even for the better, can be frightening and jarring (I speak from experience). I can certainly see how being deaf one minute and normal hearing the next could very likely cause a sensory overload.

      However, that shouldn't preclude such research. I can't imagine such an opportunity being turned down by someone who lost their hearing at some point in life.

      • it's not just that. Deaf culture is different from mainstream Anglo-American culture, in the same way that Latino culture or Quebecois culture is different from it. Deaf people have different experiences from what you do.

        That said, I think this could be a great boon to people who are hard of hearing, rather than deaf. They've been raised in a speaking culture and it's not fair or reasonable to expect them to assimilate into Deaf culture without having, for instance, learned ASL.

        Also, there's extensive corti

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        Something that you deal with all your life becomes normal for you. Changing that norm, even for the better, can be frightening and jarring

        I was badly nearsighted all my life. When I was a kid I thought I had a superpower that let me see air (yes, I loved comic books). Then I got glasses, and I remember that evening half a century ago vividly; how sharp and clear everything looked, as well as how bent and distorted everything was. It was indeed jarring, but not the least bit frightening.

        Then in 2006 I came d

        • by epp_b (944299)

          If you have a disability that can be fixed, you're a fool not to have it fixed.

          I don't think you are qualified to say that: your situation is analogous to being hard of hearing, not completely deaf (though, I have no doubt it totally sucks). If you could suddenly see after being born completely blind and being that way for decades, I assure you it would be very overwhelming.

          You had a partial disability, the people we're talking about are fully (or effectively fully) deaf. There's a whole culture and e

    • by Richy_T (111409)

      I understand the need to rationalize things that way but "The Fox Without a Tail" springs to mind.

    • by twotacocombo (1529393) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @06:25PM (#41317847)

      Many in the deaf community are against technologies that restore hearing.... Deafness is not generally considered a condition that needs to be fixed.

      Well bully for them. What about the 'few' that would like their hearing back? Tell them to quit being babies and live with it? Nobody is going to force this on those who don't want it, so at least make it an option for those who do.

    • by Kaz Kylheku (1484) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @08:26PM (#41318981) Homepage

      Those people have a right to their ignorant opinion. But no collective has a right to dictate the destiny of an individual.

      It is certainly better to hear than not to hear, without a question. Moreover, I would welcome the ability to, say, see infrared or ultraviolet, or to sense the direction of a magnetic field in which I am immersed. I only have a positive attitude toward not having these abilities, because (most?) other people also don't have them.

      • by spyke252 (2679761)

        Those people have a right to their ignorant opinion.

        How is my opinion *ignorant*? I can hear through my right ear- from those who studied me at Hopkins, it's at 150% of the average. My left has been deaf since near birth. I've learned to live with it (woohoo for me). Who cares. Anyway, my lack of hearing is never more than a slight bother at times. But then again, I'm sure applying the cure will be more than a bother as well- more of a bother than it's worth. And this is coming from someone who is planning on laser eye surgery. For you to tell me that

    • by CODiNE (27417)

      That's true. Also in many deaf churches they teach that God chose them to be deaf, they're special for that. Very few will talk about Jesus healing the deaf or scriptures that mention the deaf being able to hear in the future. Many christian deaf are unaware of those scriptures and their reaction will vary greatly depending on their background.

      Just another way that deaf expectations and feelings are the opposite of what many might assume.

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        Very few will talk about Jesus healing the deaf or scriptures that mention the deaf being able to hear in the future.

        I'm pretty familiar with the bible, esp. the new testament, where does he heal the deaf? I remember passages about healing the blind, the dumb, and the insane, where's tha part about healing the deaf? And where's the part about being able to hear in the future?

        No, I'm not deaf, nor is anyone close to me.

        • by CODiNE (27417)

          Jesus healing deaf is specifically mentioned at: Mark 7:32-37; Matthew 11:5; Luke 7:22

          You're right that other healings were described with the term "mute", "speechless" or "dumb" depending on translation so we don't know if they were deaf unlike the case in Mark 7 and the attestations in Matthew and Luke.

          Future healing of deafness: Isaiah 29:18, 35:5

          There's also the restored health of all people on earth prophecies: Prov. 2:21,22; Isaiah 33:24, 35:6, 65:17-25; Matt. 5:5; Rev. 21:3,4. Which would include th

    • Being against using the technologies personally make sense. Being against those technologies being available for others isn't quite defensible.
    • Anyone who thinks that tinnitus adds anything to life is kidding themselves. Constant ringing in your ears, worse with stress or fatigue.

      I have much accumulated damage to my body, but my highest priority for improvement would be my hearing. I don't mind wearing a splint for the rest of my life to save my teeth from finally wearing to the point of mechanical failure, but I hate having tinnitus and high frequency hearing loss.

      Look after your diet, people - your small blood vessels in your middle ear can get

    • God bless those deaf people who choose not to hear. It means I will wait in a shorter line.

    • An important distinction is that Deaf Culture members are not speaking on behalf of all deaf people. There are many, many deaf and hard of hearing people who use cochlear implants and hearing aids. Most of this population were raised by hearing parents who opted for their child to grow up in their world, rather than the world of the DC-oriented state school for the deaf system. Since 90% of the children born deaf have hearing parents, it is not surprising that many of their parents choose an oral, mainstrea

  • hear me now?
  • Damn! (Score:5, Funny)

    by iBod (534920) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @05:14PM (#41317075)

    32 weeks of studying 'Sign Language for Gerbils' - all for nothing.

  • Hair Cells (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @05:14PM (#41317081)

    I need to get the ones on my head to regrow.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      They haven't stopped growing, they've just relocated to your back, ears and nose.

  • These gerbils, are they playing chess yet? Was this research conducted by NIMH? Honestly, with all the trouble we have just getting one person's body not to reject another person's organ after a transplant, human stem cells can thrive and reconnect the hearing of a GERBIL? Does this mean that, if the every sperm is sacred wankers keep the lid on human stem cell research that we could use gerbil (or whatever more convenient nonhuman species) neural stem cells to treat human hearing problems, or maybe even
  • FUND THIS SHIT. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by neokushan (932374) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @06:14PM (#41317735)

    Seriously, just fucking fund it already. Fuck the religious ones that want to live in the dark ages, this is SCIENCE and if it can make deaf kids hear and blind kids see, then fuck whatever piece of paper says it's immoral and fuck the assholes that try to stop it.

    • by iceperson (582205)
      It was always funded. It would really be interesting to know if the lines of embryonic stem cells that Bush funded research were involved in these experiments . I'd be willing to bet that even if this research wasn't actually funded during the Bush years it built on embryonic stem cell research that was...
    • Right, we should fund cloning people and raising the clones to provide organ transplants. Fuck whatever piece of paper says that it is immoral, if it can make sick kids better, we should be funding it.
      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        Right, we should fund cloning people and raising the clones to provide organ transplants

        You're not very imaginitive, are you? Why would you need to clone the whole body when you could simply clone a new heart, maybe in your own bidy next to the old, failing one.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I was born without the ability to smell. Where can I sign up for that kind of stem cell treatment?

  • The deaf can hear, the blind can see, the lame can walk, and we could be looking at diabetes in our rearview mirrors. Just think where medicine in the U.S. and the world could be without the ban on stem cell rescearch instituted by the "silly putty brained" evangelicals!!!!
  • People really jumping to the HiWatt amps . . .

    Again!!!

  • Are you saying we're giving deaf gerbils superpowered human ears, using stem cells that don't require a pound of flesh to make a small amount of stem cells?

    Or did someone forget to actually RTFA ...

  • Sorry but I just can get the image out of my head of a gerbils wearing tiny headphones being asked to raise a paw when they hear a tone. And I'm sure I don't want know how they made the gerbils deaf in the first place!
  • I have a degenerative hearing condition called cochlear otosclerosis [lmgtfy.com] which wasn't diagnosed until after I had established myself as a successful airline pilot; a career I loved and was deeply invested in both professionally and personally. I have since retrained and I'm now a certified (degree-carrying) computer science nerd. Unfortunately, not a career path that was even vaguely close to first choice, but it pays the bills.

    Having this condition also means there is a not insignificant risk I can pass th

  • Both are/were of like minds on one account: they have/had an innate desire to make sure the poor suffer, for that brings them closer to God. This includes going blind, deaf, paralized, senile, dying in childbirth...

    The wealthy are exempt from this rule, of course.

This place just isn't big enough for all of us. We've got to find a way off this planet.

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