A new regenerative drug from MIT scientists can reverse hearing loss

Clinical treatments have already demonstrated noteworthy improvements.
Mert Erdemir
These images show cellular regeneration, in pink, in a preclinical model of sensorineural hearing loss. The control is on the left and the right has been treated.MIT

Hearing loss is a common problem that is becoming more prevalent day by day. It is even estimated that over 700 million people – or 10 percent of the population – will suffer from hearing loss, according to WHO.

Recently, it was claimed that COVID-19 vaccines cause hearing loss as a side effect, but a study revealed that there is no correlation between them.

And now, MIT spinout Frequency Therapeutics has come up with a new treatment method for the disability. The biotechnology company is aiming to reverse hearing loss through a regenerative therapy that stimulates the growth of hair cells within the cochlea.

Hair cells are sensory receptors that allow us to hear and they can die off due to acoustic trauma or exposure to ototoxins. What's worse is that when died, they are very unlike to grow back. Therefore the promise of boosting hair cell growth is what makes this treatment intriguing.

Another innovation of this method is that it does not rely on an external device like hearing aids or implants but on a drug that injects molecules into the inner ear and then converts progenitor cells into other cells that can grow hair cells inside the cochlea.

Clinical studies with more than 200 patients

The clinical trials conducted by the company included more than 200 patients who have been dosed and showed noteworthy improvements Now the company is working on a trial of 124-person and the preliminary results are expected to be available early next year.

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The trials proved the efficiency of the treatment by resulting in the improvement of the participants’ ability to perceive speech. “Speech perception is the number one goal for improving hearing and the number one need we hear from patients,” said Chris Loose, co-founder, and CEO of Frequency Therapeutics.

What is regenerative medicine and how does it work?

Regenerative medicine aims at a treatment that is based on regrowing, engineering, or replacing damaged cells, organs, or tissues by stimulating the repair mechanism of the human body. In this direction, it utilizes stem cell therapies, tissue engineering, and artificial organs.

An easier and more persistent treatment is needed for hearing loss that affects a substantial number of people. However, time will tell if this new treatment method developed by Frequency Therapeutics can help reverse the common condition through regenerative medicine.

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