Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Listen Hair

Organoids used to test drugs as potential stimulators of the inner ear's hair cells to restore hearing

19 October 2021

Listen Hair

A bald patch in the wrong spot can threaten more than your appearance. Hair cells of the inner ear play a fundamental role in hearing, and damage, disease, or degradation can cause hearing loss. In humans these cells cannot be repaired or replaced, but they can in other species, such as birds and fish, raising hopes that restoration could be possible in the right circumstances. To investigate, a study developed organoids – miniature ear-mimicking structures – from newborn mouse ear tissue (pictured, with hair cells in green) and used these as a platform to speculatively test the impact of over a thousand different drugs. They found that regorafenib, a drug typically used to fight cancer, stimulated hair cell formation. Hair cells even regenerated in tissues after damage caused by chemical exposure. If this translates to humans, it could eventually mean new treatments for hearing loss, and this experimental approach could yield further revelations.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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