In a first of its kind study, a team of scientists in the UK have tried to "grow" new stem cells in the ear that get damaged with age, a finding they say could help combat hearing loss associated with old-age.
Researchers at Keele University found that in some cases hearing begins to decline when fibrocytes - cells in the inner ear - start to degenerate with age.
Once these cells die and don't function correctly, other parts of the inner ear can become permanently damaged, leading to increased loss of hearing and possible deafness, said the researchers. Dr Dave Furness and his team have begun research which will explore whether replacement fibrocytes and fibrocyte stem cells can be successfully grown and implanted into the ear.
If successful, the research could pave the way towards the prevention of age related hearing loss, Furness said. "We set out to explore why deafness occurs as a result of aging and what we discovered was that fibrocytes, the part of the ear involved in managing fluid composition in the cochlea, do degrade due to old age," Furness said.
Once this happens, he said, it causes hearing sensitivity to decrease.
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