Doctor Cliff Olson, Audiologist and founder of Applied Hearing Solutions in Phoenix Arizona, discusses the possibility of using Stem Cells to Treat Hearing Loss & Tinnitus.
– Hi guys, Cliff Olson, Doctor of Audiology and founder of Applied Hearing Solutions in Phoenix, Arizona. And, in this video, I’m talking about using stem cells to cure hearing loss and tinnitus, coming up. (lively upbeat music) It is no secret that individuals with hearing loss and tinnitus would prefer a cure for these conditions rather than having to treat them with hearing aids, cochlear implants, or a variety of different treatment methods. And with nearly 500 million people throughout the entire world having hearing loss and tinnitus there is definitely incentive for researchers to find a cure. Now, hearing loss and tinnitus can be caused by a variety of different things, including head trauma, genetics, noise exposure, chemical exposure, and age.
Each of these can either cause damage to, or lead to improper development of inner and outer hair cells inside of the cochlea which, ultimately, results in hearing loss and tinnitus. Outer hair cells are, basically, your ears’ natural amplifiers. There are three rows of these hair cells embedded inside of the basilar membrane, which amplify the vibration of incoming sounds.
A single row of inner hair cells are also embedded in the basilar membrane, but these hair cells are responsible for sensing the physical vibration, and converting it into a neural impulse that travels up the auditory nerve to the brain. Without properly functioning or present outer hair cells there is not enough vibration along the basilar membrane to trigger a neural impulse from the inner hair cells.
Without properly functioning, or present inner hair cells it doesn’t even matter how much vibration you have along the basilar membrane because there’s nothing to create a neural impulse to send up to the brain. Basically, the vast majority of hearing losses are caused by improperly functioning inner and outer hair cells. And, on top of that, one of the main causes of tinnitus is lack of auditory information from the ears up to the brain, which would also be caused by the same thing. So it stands to reason that if you could regenerate, regrow, or replace these damaged, or missing inner and outer hair cells you could potentially cure hearing loss and tinnitus. But before I dig deeper into some of the potential cures for hearing loss and tinnitus, if you could do me a huge favor and click the like button it really helps out my channel because it gets these videos in front of a broader audience.
And while you’re at it, if you have not yet hit that Subscribe button with notification bell go ahead and do that as well, because that ensures that you never miss one of my newly released videos, and I release multiple new videos every single week. With that outta the way, I really appreciate it. Now, let’s go ahead and take a look at some of these potential cures for these conditions. Currently, there are three different methods that scientists are researching in order to find a cure for hearing loss and tinnitus. We have gene therapy, we have molecular therapy, and we have stem cell therapy.
Scientists have identified over 100 different genes that can cause genetic hearing loss, and gene therapy could be used as a way to prevent these hearing losses before they even occur, or as a treatment option for these hearing losses after they’ve occurred.
As of right now, there are only animal models that suggest that gene therapy could be an effective treatment option for hearing loss and tinnitus at some point in the distant future. Molecular therapy is even more promising, at this point, where they use different molecular compounds that can permeate the round window of the cochlea to stimulate dormant progenitor cells to regrow hair cells. You may have seen one of my several videos about FX 322 and FX 345 that use this molecular therapy in order to awaken these dormant progenitor cells. And if you wanna see those videos I will have them linked in the description.
However, the main topic of this video is exploring whether or not stem cells could be the key to curing hearing loss and tinnitus. In general, you have four main types of stem cells that are used in therapeutics. These include adult stem cells, embryonic stem cells, spiral ganglion derived neural stem cells, and inducible pluripotent stem cells. And each of these stem cells could be either administered endogenously, or exogenously.
By endogenously I just mean stimulating resident stem cells that are already inside of the cochlea.
Very similar to how molecular therapy would work by awakening dormant progenitor cells. However, due to the lack of resident stem cells inside of the cochlea, it is much more likely that exogenous methods like transplantation of stem cells into the cochlea would be a better bet. If stem cells could be used to grow hair cells inside of a lab, which is already being done, and then transplanted into your cochlea it could be possible to restore your natural hearing ability.
Just imagine going into a surgical procedure. And then, in the weeks and months following that procedure your hearing just started gradually coming back.
While this would probably be a very expensive way to get your hearing back, if effective, people who could afford it could actually cure their hearing loss. However, while the use of stem cells does sound very exciting there are some major hurdles that would have to be overcome before this could be a viable option to cure hearing loss. First, while researchers have been effective at growing stem cells into hair cells structures inside of a lab, it is a much different story, actually getting those stem cells into a cochlea without causing more damage than what you would recover from a hearing perspective. It’s kind of like taking 10 steps backwards just to take one step forward. Second, even if they are successful at transplanting stem cells into the cochlea the endolymph fluid inside of the cochlea would be a very harsh environment for a foreign stem cell to survive.
So they would actually have to go in and change the chemical composition of this endolymph fluid before they actually do the procedure. Third would be correctly targeting the exact areas that you want to regrow inner and outer hair cells, and have them grow in the right location rather than having them just grow anywhere. Fourth, you would need them to establish a neural connection with the auditory nerve. It would do you absolutely no good to grow hair cell-like structures, and not have them innervate with the nerve because they would be there, they just wouldn’t do anything. And fifth, these stem cells would have to be programmed properly for them to turn into the appropriate type of hair cell, whether it’s an inner hair cell or an outer hair cell, and they could not just continuously reproduce because then you could be left with a situation where you have a tumor growing inside of your ear.
And that is a much bigger problem than just having a hearing loss. Despite all of these limitations with recent successes that scientists have had with animal models they do believe that stem cell therapies will be a viable treatment option to potentially cure hearing loss and tinnitus. It might just be a really long time before we get there. In the meantime, if you do have hearing loss the most logical thing for you to do is to treat your hearing loss with whatever treatment options are currently available. Because even if they do come out with a stem cell cure within the next 10 years, the long-term auditory deprivation that you would go through between now and then may significantly reduce your benefit from treatment.
So if you think you have a hearing loss, I highly recommend that you see an audiologist to identify exactly what type of hearing loss that you have. And so you can identify what the most appropriate treatment options are so you are much better prepared if a stem cell cure comes out in the future. That’s it for this video, if you have any questions leave them in the Comments section below. If you like the video, please share it. And if you wanna see other videos, just like this one go ahead and hit that Subscribe button.
Also feel free to check out my website, DrCliffAud.com.
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