Stem Cells, Deafness & Hearing Loss

Hearing loss may soon be reversible, thanks to cord blood stem cell therapy

Deafness in the UK…

  •  840 babies are born each year with a significant hearing impairment
  • About 1 in 1,000 children are deaf at three years of age
  • 20,000 children between 0-15 years of age are moderately to severely deaf
  • 42% of people who are over 50 years of age have some kind of hearing impairment

What is sensorineural hearing loss?

Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) is a type of deafness caused by damage to the sensitive hairs within the inner ear (sensory) or damage to the auditory nerve (neural).

Hair cells within the ear change the vibrations caused by sound into electrical signals that are sent to the brain through the auditory nerve. The extent to which hairs are damaged or missing determines the degree of hearing loss.

SNHL accounts for 90% of hearing loss worldwide. Hair cells may be abnormal at birth or damaged by illness, medication or noise. SNHL can also be genetic, and this is a significant cause of deafness in newborn babies.

How do stem cells treat hearing loss?

The Journal of Audiology and Otology recently published a report in which doctors at Florida Children’s Hospital treated children with stem cells stored from their own umbilical cord blood after birth.

There are currently no reparative treatments for SNHL. Numerous studies suggest that cord blood cells allow at least partial restoration of SNHL by enabling repair of a damaged organ of Corti. Our objective is to determine if hUCB is a safe treatment for moderate to severe acquired SNHL in children.

Dr. Linda S. Baumgartner and colleagues, Safety of Autologous Umbilical Cord Blood Therapy for Acquired Sensorineural Hearing Loss in Children

Eleven children aged 6 months to 6 years with moderate to severe SNHL received an infusion of stem cells from their cord own cord blood, which had been collected and processed at birth.

find out how cord blood collection works

The children’s auditory function and auditory verbal language were tested before and after the treatment.

There were no adverse events to the therapy and five children experienced a reduction in auditory brainstem response (ABR) thresholds. This means the brain is able to respond to quieter sounds and indicates improved hearing. Considering the age of the children and the fact that one family dropped out and another did not fully participate, the doctors were encouraged by the results:

This is a very strong indication of the efficacy of the intervention. The data suggest that hUCB treatment can allow progressive myelination and strengthened the integrity of auditory pathways in children with acquired SNHL.

Dr. Linda S. Baumgartner and colleagues, Safety of Autologous Umbilical Cord Blood Therapy for Acquired Sensorineural Hearing Loss in Children

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BSc (Hons) Microbiology

Chief Executive Officer | Biovault Family

Biovault Family CEO, Kate Sneddon, joined Biovault in July 2009 and became Chief Executive Officer in 2016. As health industry professional her experience includes working as a microbiologist and leader at GSK for over 10 years. Her expertise in cord blood banking has been recognised in her awards, features in Parliamentary Review and Parents Guide to Cord Blood, as well as contributions to research with UCL and others.

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