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Medicine Biotech Science

Stem Cells Turn Hearing Back On 101

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 Wyatt Earp ( 1029 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @04:10PM (#41317023)

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

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

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @04:19PM (#41317139)

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

    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?

  • by Wyatt Earp ( 1029 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @04:35PM (#41317353)

    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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @04:47PM (#41317487)

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

  • by epp_b ( 944299 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @05:06PM (#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.

  • by Antipater ( 2053064 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @05:17PM (#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 [], 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 ravenshrike ( 808508 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @07:07PM (#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 Kaz Kylheku ( 1484 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @07:28PM (#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 @09:59PM (#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 narcc ( 412956 ) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @04:23AM (#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.

Two can Live as Cheaply as One for Half as Long. -- Howard Kandel