Scientists use stem cells to grow working inner ear parts to treat deafness

scientists stem cells inner ear tissue 9364942323 23f8052454 k
Eltpics/Flickr CC
In many cases, deafness can have a significant impact on a person’s well-being, from obvious primary challenges like, well, not being able to hear, to no-less-important secondary issues like resulting social isolation.

In recent years, a number of increasingly high-quality hearing aids have helped resolve some of these issues, but a new research project coming out of Indiana University School of Medicine may have the biggest impact yet.

What professor Karl Koehler and his team have been working on is a method to grow human inner ear organs from stem cells.

“Human stem cells have the potential to form any organ in the body, but they require special guidance cues at the right time to form a specific organ, like the inner ear,” Koehler told Digital Trends. “After about three years of careful trial and error, we came up with a ‘cue recipe’ that tells stem cells to form inner ear organ-like structures. We call these ‘inner ear organoids.’ In the study, we show how inner ear organoids are structured and function like real inner ear organs.”

The inner ear is one of the few organs in the body with which a biopsy is not performed, which makes the tissues rare for the purposes of research. “It’s hard to obtain inner ear tissue from patients for research, which has made it difficult to test new drugs or gene therapies,” Koehler explained. “We are aiming to set up large-scale screens to identify new drugs. We hope this human ear-in-a-dish will accelerate development of promising drugs that could regenerate the inner ear hair cells, the sound and movement sensing cells, of someone with profound deafness or dizziness.”

We’re still far from the point at which this tech could be used to restore hearing to someone who has lost it, but the tissues grown by the team do recognizably appear like our own — right down to the presence of normal functioning hair cells, and neurons that send sound signals to the brain.

The work is described in the new issue of the journal Nature Biotechnology.

Computing

Nose cam no more. How Dell avoided a notch and fixed the XPS 13’s biggest flaw

The new Dell XPS 13 moves the webcam from the below the screen to the top, finally vanquishing the one obstacle facing thin, sleek laptop displays. We have the exclusive story on how it was done.
Emerging Tech

Scientists successfully grow human blood vessels in a Petri dish

Researchers have managed to grow human blood vessels in a Petri dish for the first time, and even to successfully implant them into live mice. The results could be a game-changer for diabetes.
Home Theater

Sony’s 360 Reality Audio is the epic sound revolution you didn’t know you needed

After Sony’s utterly bizarre press conference, I almost missed what was perhaps the most impactful sonic experience at the show. Luckily, I went back to Sony’s booth on the last day of the show, only to have my mind blown.
Emerging Tech

Scientists debate mysterious flash of light in space, known as ‘The Cow’

On June 16, 2018 there was an unusual flash in the sky which puzzled astronomers around the world. NASA researchers have been collecting data on the event and have shared two competing theories for what could have caused it.
Emerging Tech

CERN plans to build a massive particle collider that dwarfs the LHC

CERN already has the world's biggest particle accelerator. Now it wants a bigger one. Meet the 9 billion euro Future Circular Collider that will allow physicists to extend their study of the universe and matter at the smallest level.
Emerging Tech

Forget fireworks. Japan will soon have artificial meteor showers on tap

Tokyo-based startup Astro Live Experiences is preparing to launch its first artificial meteor shower over Japan, serving as a showcase of its prowess in the space entertainment sector.
Cars

Robomart’s self-driving grocery store is like Amazon Go on wheels

Robomart's driverless vehicle is like an Amazon Go store on wheels, with sensors tracking what you grab from the shelves. If you don't want to shop online or visit the grocery store yourself, Robomart will bring the store to you.
Emerging Tech

Glowing space billboards could show ads in the night sky

Look up at the night sky in 2020 and you might see an ad for McDonald's floating among the stars. A Russian startup is working on a project that uses a constellation of small satellites in low-Earth orbit to create glowing ads.
Emerging Tech

New brainwave reader tells teachers if students are concentrating

Massachusetts-based startup BrainCo has developed brainwave-reading headbands which can reportedly help reveal if students are concentrating in class. Here's how they're being used.
Emerging Tech

Fears about kids’ screen use may have been overblown, Oxford researchers find

Many people take it as gospel that digital technologies are harmful to young people’s mental health. But is this true? A recent study from the University of Oxford takes a closer look.
Emerging Tech

Meet Wiliot, a battery-less Bluetooth chip that pulls power from thin air

A tiny chip from a semiconductor company called Wiliot could harvest energy out of thin air, the company claims. No battery needed. The paper-thin device pulls power from ambient radio frequencies like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cell signals.
Emerging Tech

Hexbot is a modular robot arm that does everything from drawing to playing chess

Who wouldn’t want their own personal robot arm to do everything from laser engraving to competing against you in a game of chess? That's what Hexbot, a new modular robot, promises to deliver.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world will take your breath away

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Emerging Tech

Too buzzed to drive? Don’t worry — this autonomous car-bar will drive to you

It might just be the best or worst idea that we've ever heard: A self-driving robot bartender you can summon with an app, which promises to mix you the perfect drink wherever you happen to be.