Researchers at the Stanford University Medical School have found ways to regenerate cell cells from the internal ears of mice, which allows animals to recover vestibular function. It is the first time that you have observed this recovery in mature mammals.
If other research shows that the technique can be applied to humans, it would be an initial step towards treating vestibular disorders, such as dizziness. There is currently no effective treatment for dizziness and balance disorders caused by damaged or missed hair cells. The only available therapy is to teach patients to deal with the mechanisms through physical therapy.
This incapacitating condition is very common among elderly people and one of the main causes of falls. "
Alan Cheng, MD, associate professor of otorhinolaryngology and head surgery
Cheng is the lead author of an article about the investigation, which will be published on July 9 Cellular reports. Zahra Sayyid, Ph.D. student at Stanford, is the lead author.
The capillary cells of the uterus, a section of the inner ear, help to maintain balance and spatial orientation and regulate the movement of the eyes. Some antibiotics can damage these cells. Damage can also be caused by genetic infections or disorders, or as a consequence of aging. In mature mammals, vestibular cells regenerate themselves in a minimal way. (Birds and fish, however, have the ability to regenerate them completely).
In the United States, about 69 million people experience vestibular dysfunctions, some due to problems with the cells of the hair of the inner ear. They can feel as if they were turning, they easily lost their balance, suffered from nausea and had trouble crawling objects with their eyes. Symptoms can prevent patients from participating in activities, including exercise and driving, and may lead to social isolation.
To study these vestibular disorders, the researchers affected the cells of the internal ear of the mice and measured the degree of regeneration of their own. The researchers found that about a third of the cells regenerated spontaneously, but it seemed immature and the vestibular function was inconsistent.
They then manipulated Atoh1, a transcription factor that regulates the formation of hair cells to mice. In animals that overexpress Atoh1, up to 70% of the ciliated cells regenerate. The regenerated cells appeared relatively mature and approximately 70% of these mice recovered the vestibular function.
"This is very exciting. It is an important first step to finding a treatment for vestibular disorders," said Cheng. "We could not get enough feedback to retrieve the function before."
The researchers plan to study how other methods to improve the Atoh1 feature can affect regeneration.
While the finding is a proof of concept, "it has opened the door to many more possibilities that can lead to treatment in people with vestibular disorders," said Sayyid.