Have you ever imagined how a unit of umbilical cord blood can treat your child’s hearing problem? As stated by Dr. James Baumgartner, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Florida Children’s Hospital, umbilical cord blood stem cells can be used to treat several critical conditions among children. With regards to treating acquired hearing loss in children, he had confirmed that acquired hearing problem or loss can be treated with autologous umbilical cord blood stem cells.
Acquired hearing loss is a devastating condition in children, which does not remain present at the time of birth but acquired later. It’s believed that half of the children, suffering from the illness, received it from their genetics while half acquired it due to external factors like too much of antibiotic exposure, prematurity, and recurrent ear infections. And to make it worse, the severity of the condition is gradually progressive for many kids.
Dr. Baumgartner explained how a child learns to speak while hearing from others. He told that it takes 12 months of normal auditory input for a child to speak. During this period, a child’s brain develops an understanding of spoken language. If the child does not get exposed to auditory input for 18 months, the chances of speech is bleak. If he remains deprived of sound for over 3.2 years, he is probably never going to speak. That is the reason that acquired hearing loss is considered a critical condition in children.
Wondering what factor leads to acquired loss of hearing? Well, there is an organ, called corti, which is located in the inner ear and is considered the microphone of our body. Our auditory nerve fibers are situated just beneath the hair cells in corti. And its main function is to pass signals to our brain. The loss of hair cells in the organ of corti leads to acquired hearing loss.
The most-practiced treatments to treat acquired hearing loss in kids are cochlear implants and hearing aids. However, both of these solutions only address the symptoms and don’t provide any cure. Now let’s come to how stem cells can treat acquired hearing loss. Researchers believe that umbilical stem cells can regenerate new hair cells in the organ of corti, which are responsible for hearing loss.
A trial, inspired by a Duke University research with 30 patients, suffering from acquired loss of hearing, shows that cord blood transplants can be a treatment for sensorineural hearing loss due to mucopolysaccharidosis. The findings demonstrate that hearing loss can be easily measured. The unit is called ABR that is a count of functioning hair cells. If the transplant shows an improvement in ABR, it suggests the functioning hair cells are growing in number. In a previous trail, human umbilical cord blood stem cells were used to treat loss of hearing in a mice model, which resulted in replacement of hair cells. Baumgartner added, “There was a pretty significant improvement. In particular if the stem cell transplant was done before 25 months of age.