Whether you’re the person struggling with hearing loss or you somehow know who has lost your hearing, it can be a frustrating part of aging. Hearing loss can also lead to tinnitus, feelings of isolation, and has even been closely linked to dementia. This is why research into ways to reverse hearing loss has been so intriguing to many. And now scientists with a spinoff from MIT may have found a solution.
MIT scientists have found a way to reverse hearing loss
Frequency Therapeutics, an MIT spin-off, is looking for new ways to reverse hearing loss. But not by fitting patients with hearing aids or implants. Instead, the biotech company wants to use a new type of regenerative therapy to repair the tiny hair cells that allow us to hear.
As we age and are exposed to loud noises or medications, hair cells begin to die. Since the ears rely heavily on tiny hairs to detect sound, these circumstances can all lead to hearing loss. But Frequency Therapeutics may have found a way to undo the damage.
The company is testing a regenerative therapy that uses small molecules to program progenitor cells. These cells are the descendants of stem cells. Progenitor cells are placed in the inner ear and can create the tiny hair cells that our hearing relies on. Thus, it allows cells to reverse hearing loss by replacing the hairs that led to the loss in the first place.
It’s certainly an interesting move, and one that could prove fruitful as they continue to work on it. So far, the company has achieved outstanding results based on tests measuring speech perception. Frequency co-founder and chief scientific officer Chris Loose Ph.D. says, “Speech perception is the number one goal for improving hearing.”
Maturation and growth
To date, Frequency Therapeutics has administered its regenerative therapy to over 200 patients. Three of the trials conducted by Frequency showed positive results in reversing hearing loss. However, one study showed no improvement. All four tests were based on improvements in speech perception.
The company is now pushing for a retrial of 124 people. He expects preliminary results to be available early next year. If this trial goes well, we could see more widespread testing of regenerative therapy. It still has a long way to go before it is available in the official market. However, the results seem promising so far for those who need to reverse hearing loss.
Additionally, as the program matures and expands, scientists believe it could become much easier to administer.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if in 10 or 15 years, because of the resources being put into this space and the incredible science going on, we can get to the point where hearing loss reversal is similar to Lasik surgery, where you’re ‘in and out in an hour or two and you can completely restore your vision,'” Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology Affiliate Faculty Jeff Karp said in a statement.
If so, we may be able to completely reverse the hearing loss in the future. This alone could have a massive impact on society.