Dr. Marcelo Rivolta, of the University of Sheffield, stated, "It is early days, but we believe this is a substantial step forward because what we have here is the proof of concept that we can use human stem cells derived from human embryonic stem cells to repair the ear."
Rivolta added, "What this method does is if you put sound into the ear canal, if the brain can hear that sound, it will produce an electrical wave. So it's a way of seeing that the pathways are reconnected and functionally active."
And, "To put the quantification in context, if it were a human, it would mean going from not being able to hear a truck on the road to being able to hear speech in a normal room."
The authors of the study, from England and Thailand, published the Nature article "Restoration of auditory evoked responses by human ES-cell-derived otic progenitors" (doi:10.1038/nature11415) online on September 12, 2012.
It states in part: "Rivolta's team manipulated human embryonic stem cells -- taken from a cell line approved for use in research -- to create "otic progenitor" cells."
And, "Embryonic stem cells give rise to virtually all tissue types in the body, from the various organs to neurons to skin. Progenitor cells generated from stem cells can differentiate into specific kinds of cells -- in this case, cells with the same properties as hair cells and auditory neurons, both critical for sensing sound."
Within the CTV article, Rivolta estimates that human trials could begin within a few years to see if a similar stem cell process could be performed on humans to restore hearing loss.