Hair Cell Regeneration – Myth or Reality

human ear diagramIn this month’s issue of Volta Voices, Dr. Stephen Epstein discusses the latest on the status of the fabled “hair cell regeneration” – which is the ability to restore hearing capabilities to the damaged hair cells of the inner ear. Many parents, when deciding if they should implant their child, worry that perhaps by implanting their child they are denying them the option of having their hearing restored naturally through this process.

According to Dr. Epstein, the most promising area of research is the controversial method of using stem cells to replace the destroyed tissue. Human stem cells would be most effective for this process, as they would have the greatest potential to produce normal hearing in humans. However, according to current federal regulations, human embryo stem cell research is prohibited. Therefore, research must be carried out on mice and then many tests must be conducted to see if the results are applicable to humans.

Many experts believe that even should a breakthrough be made in this field, it would take the Food and Drug Administration close to 10 years to approve the method for use in children. To wait that long and leave a child without the ability to hear would destroy the child’s ability to develop normal auditory and language skills. Therefore – the wisest choice would be to not be concerned with what future technology may bring, and jump and what is available today for your child.


  1. Richard Roehm said

    I’m glad I’m a member of a stem cell PAC and I’m glad I’m not being confused by information from people who are not directly involved with stem cell research and advocacy.


  2. I_C_Voices said

    Just to clarify, human embryo stem cell research is not currently prohibited. Its happening all across the country, but its limited to 21 unique strains of cells which were collected before 2001. The problem with this research is more related to Patents and ownership than it is to the actual findings. Someone wants to make a LOT of money on the research if anything actually is discovered from the current findings.

    The problem with Cochlear Implantation is the complete destruction of the inner ear which accompanies the surgery. That’s why double implantation is so short-sighted. If a better treatment is developed which relies on the use of the actual cochlea, children and adults with 2 CI’s will be out of luck (and someone will probably be answering a BIG lawsuit, if they advised dual implantation).

  3. mcconnell said

    The next better treatment would probably be the neural stem implant which focus on the auditory nerve the at comes out of the cochlea into the brain. It doesn’t even touch inside of the cochlea at all. At yet, it mimics much more closely to that of a hearing person.

    Even if the inner ear is damaged caused by cochlear implantation stem cells have shown to regenerate the nerve ear hair cell in lab animals.

  4. zfor said

    I think the main point here is not the contoversy about stem cell research but that there is no alternative to cochlear implant technology, yet. Developing any alternative technology will require many years, if not decades — too much time for a deaf toddler to lose.

  5. Abbie said

    The idea of stem cell research contributing to the hearing loss society is a wonderful day to look forward to, however it just seems so far off. The unproven thesis that those who have cochlear implants will automatically be excluded from when and if stem cells transplants are available is premature. Until it has been proven, it is just a theory without a conclusion. Besides, I refuse to sit here and waste all that time in the dark so to speak while it is still being researched. When the research is turned into hardcore proof, lord only knows when the FDA will approve and then the question of when the insurance company will pay for it. That is a good 20 years down the line. I will be 47 by then! I refuse to wait that long!

  6. Jeff said

    Uh, I think it’s not prohibited at all, only that a laboratory receiving Federal funds cannot do it. That is most labs, but not all.


    It is a tragedy when someone begins to lose one of their senses. The ability of stem cells to treat mediate hearing loss is here today, currently available and has generated huge interest! Already within 36 hours of posting the article above on my blog, I helped 5 people (for free) with hearing disorders find the right stem cell treatment for their particular condition. Hearing loss from external environmental factors, natural degeneration, autoimmune disease/MS, etc.

    I am in close contact with the only stem cell patient advocacy institute in the world and they are willing to help hearing impaired patients find treatments at no cost. The first step for you to find the best treatment center in the world for treating your particular hearing disorder is to fill out the treatment request form at the Repair Stem Cell Institute website:

    Your medical info will be sent to the top 5 treatment centers in the world and they will contact you shortly with information, costs, etc. if they treat your condition.
    There is no cost for treatment request and info.

    Answers to that question including diabetes clinical trials:

    Feel free to contact me if I can be of further assistance

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