A common problem for many older people is hearing loss, which is estimated to affect more than 10 million in the UK. It occurs when hair cells that work to detect sounds within the ear are damaged. Although the hunt is on to find ways to reverse this damage, the inner ear is one part of the body that can’t be biopsied [sampled]. So, researchers have used stem cells to create dish-grown human inner ear tissue (pictured above, with sensory hair cells fluorescently labelled blue), as well as the nerves (fluorescently labelled yellow) that would transmit signals from the ear to the brain. This provides the opportunity for in-depth study of the inner ear and the causes of deafness at a molecular level. It also facilitates the development and testing of new therapies for disorders of the inner ear.
Written by Katie Panteli
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