The journal entitled Stem Cell Reports have just published a study showing that scientists are on the verge of discovering a treatment for congenital deafness using stem cells. Professor Kazusaku Kamiya, a specialist in ear diseases, who is directing the research, explained that he and his team have succeeded in producing cochlear cells: “The next stage will be to find the means of introducing them into the patient’s ear”. According to the Professor, “treatment could be available in 5 to 10 years’ time”.
The studies, which were carried out in a laboratory at Juntendi University in Tokyo, Japan, are aimed at correcting the GJB2 gene responsible for deafness or loss of hearing. This condition affects one in 1,000 children. In some parts of the world, gene mutation is linked to 50% of deafness of genetic origin. Professor Kamiya and his team have produced and enlarged new human cochlear cells from stem cells free from this mutation, to replace the patient’s damaged cells.
Patients suffering from this type of deafness are generally treated with implants, which help to transmit sound to the auditory nerves. No treatment currently exists. These cells should restore the person’s normal hearing.
Note from Gènéthique:
Ichiro Fukunaga et al. succeeded in obtaining CX26-GJP forming cochlear cells (cells expressing the GJB2 gene which produces connexin, 26, CX26). The work was carried out in the Kazusaku Kamiya Laboratory (ENT Department, Jutendo University Faculty of Medicine, Tokyo).
iPS are murine iPS (five lines, two from the RIKEN Bio Resource Center, three generated in the lab from murine embryonal fibroblasts). Clinical application is still a long way off. The technique is currently being used as a cell model for cochlear diseases, which constitutes the main advantage of iPS over embryo stem cells.
 These cells are found in the inner ear and are essential for transmitting sound from the ear to the brain.
Mailonline (Harry Pettit) 22/11/2016 ; Express (Lucy Johnston) 20/11/2016