In the first ever study of its kind, an Australian researcher Dr Coleman is on the way to use stem cell to make nerves to connect the ear to the brain. If successful, the technique could be used to improve the quality of hearing in people with cochlear implants — and one day it may even help restore hearing to those who are totally deaf. The experiment is likely replace the use of bionic ear.

When a rock concert, pneumatic drill or blaring iPod destroys some of the tiny, vibrating hairs in the inner ear, the damage does not stop there. Each hair cell’s destruction leads to the death of up to 10 nerves that carry sound information into the brain.The bionic ear (cochlear implant) can replace some of the work of the hair — but it cannot regrow the nerves.

Enter the stem cell: “precursor” cells that can grow into replacement nerve cells. The theory is that the bigger and healthier the nerves, the better the cochlear implant will work. Dr Coleman said.

“We are using stem cells to make that bigger and healthier.Of course, it is more complicated than sticking a bunch of cells in your ear. Dr Coleman has to make the cells grow in the right place, to connect the hair cell to the brain.”

Source: The Age