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In gerbils, stemcells boost hopes of ending deafness

Published on Sep 13, 2012 7:40 AM
 

PARIS (AFP) - Scientists working with deaf gerbils said on Wednesday they had found a way of coaxing early stem cells into specialised ear cells that helped the rodents hear sound once more.

The gerbils had been given a chemical to damage key nerve cells called spiral ganglion neurons (SGNs). These transmit to the brain the signals that are picked up by "hair" cells, which respond to noise.

In a study published in the journal Nature, a team led by Mr Marcelo Rivolta at Britain's University of Sheffield said they had found a way to turn human embryonic stem cells into precursors of these vital ear cells to reverse the deafness.

Stem cells are infant cells that develop into the specialised tissues of the body.

 
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