There is some promising new research, that has reached the clinical trials stage, to use gene therapy to regrow hair cells in the inner ear to restore hearing.
‘Novartis AG (NOVN) is developing a gene therapy that may reverse hearing loss by stimulating the regrowth of microscopic hair cells in the inner ear, allowing people to hear. The hairs are destroyed by prolonged exposure to loud noise, and don’t take root again naturally. Novartis treated the first patient in October after successful tests on rats.‘
‘Novartis plans to test its treatment on 45 patients in the U.S., with results expected by 2017, according to a description of the trial on clinicaltrials.gov, the National Institutes of Health’s database of studies.‘
‘The auditory hair cells targeted by the Novartis drug are in the inner ear, where they convert vibrations caused by sound waves into electrical signals that are passed along the auditory nerve to the brain, which interprets them as sound.‘
‘The therapy uses a disabled cold-causing virus that enters so-called supporting cells in the inner ear, where it delivers its payload — a gene called atonal-1 that tells the cells to grow into hair cells.‘