DanStem Seminar by Marcelo Rivolta
February 27, 2019, Marcelo Rivolta, Department of Biomedical Science, University of Sheffield
Title: Developing a stem cell-based therapy for the treatment of hearing loss
Venue: Nielsine Nielsen auditorium
Human auditory stem cells and the development of a cell-based therapy for deafness
Deafness and the lack of conventional treatment. More than 3 million adults in the UK have a bilateral hearing impairment that is moderate to profound (larger than 45 dB HL). The numbers rise to around 10 million if we include sufferers of mild impairments. This is important, since severity increases rapidly after 50 years of age in what is known as presbyacusis. To compound the problem, congenital deafness affects 1 in 1000 children. Almost 90% of people affected suffer a sensorineural deficit, which involves loss of the two first cells in the auditory pathway: the sensory hair cells and their associated auditory neurons.
In mammals, the progenitor cells that give origin to the sensory cell types are only produced during foetal and early postnatal stages. Therefore, damaged cells are not replaced, making hearing loss irreversible. There is no medical treatment for deafness although, in patients that maintain a suitable nerve, the sensory function of the inner ear can be partially restored by a cochlear implant (CI). While the CI can functionally replace damaged hair cells, there is virtually no treatment to compensate for the loss of auditory neurons. The social and economic implications of hearing impairment are enormous, as is the size of the population affected.
The need for a new therapy: Stem cell opportunity
Current developments in stem cell technology could offer new hopes for the treatment of deafness. One therapeutic approach could be to trigger sensory regeneration from existing cells or to replace lost cells by transplantation of exogenous, in vitro-maintained stem populations with the potential to produce hair cells and neurons.