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Stem Cells Show Potential in Researching Deafness

Cells from fetal cochleae could differentiate into sensory hair cells and neurons

WEDNESDAY, April 1 (HealthDay News) -- The use of human fetal auditory stem cells (hFASCs) could serve as the basis for the development of cell-based therapies to treat deafness, according to research published online March 23 in Stem Cells Express.

Wei Chen, Ph.D., of the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, and colleagues analyzed data derived from cochleae removed from 9- to 11-week-old human fetuses. From the cochleae, the researchers were able to isolate a population of SOX2+OCT4+ auditory stem cells. Cells underwent 25 to 30 population doublings in vitro over the course of seven to eight months.

Dissociation with trypsin could trigger neuronal differentiation, the researchers report. The cells could differentiate into sensory hair cells and neurons, and displayed the functional electrophysiological qualities of cochlear hair cells and auditory neurons, the investigators found.

"The hFASCs described here are the first in vitro renewable stem cell system derived from the human auditory organ and have the potential for a variety of applications. Their progressive differentiation into the two main sensory lineages under well-defined conditions, including the manifestation of functional electrophysiological characteristics of cochlear hair cells and auditory neurons, defines them as an ideal model to study early developmental events," the authors write.

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