A neuron makes contact
Auditory neurons grown from stem cells may treat hearing loss.
The image above shows a neuron grown from an inner-ear stem cell (the neuron is shown in red) grafted onto a mouse’s cochlea, the part of the inner ear that convert sound vibrations into nerve signals. The cells shown in green are hair cells that carry out the conversion, while hair bundles are shown in blue.
The technique of creating auditory neurons from stem cells, recently pioneered by scientists at Rutgers University in the US, may open the path to treatments for hearing loss caused by nerve degeneration.
The researchers transformed the stem cells into neurons by increasing the activity of a gene called NEUROG1, though they warn it may have the unwanted effect of causing the stem cells to divide too quickly, which poses a cancer risk.