Stem cells could prevent blindness and restore hearing

Two University research projects report promising findings

Stem cells could improve hearing

A research scientist at the University of Sheffield is working on what could be part of a new treatment for deafness in people with certain types of hearing loss.

Dr Marcelo Rivolta aims to learn how to convert human embryonic stem cells into the different inner ear cell types that could be used to repair the damaged human ear. His research so far has shown that by using a combination of certain chemicals known as 'growth factors' we can manipulate these embryonic stem cells to obtain cells that eventually could be transplanted into a damaged part of the ear, a process which could restore a person's hearing.

This sort of treatment could eventually help people who have lost their hearing as a result of cochlear degeneration or lost hair cells because of loud noise or drug treatments, as well as people with certain genetic conditions.

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Stem cells could prevent world's leading cause of blindness

A study co-authored by Professor Pete Coffey at the University of Sheffield, has shown for the first time that adult stem cells can be used to replace dead retinal cells, reversing the damage caused by retinitis pigementosa, the world's leading cause of inherited blindness. The study, published in November 2004's edition of Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, has successfully used stem cells to reverse retinitis pigmentosa in mice, and hold great promise for treating a number of causes of blindness in the future.

Read the University of Sheffield news release

Please contact Lorna Branton on 0114 2221032 or email