In an effort that may someday lead to the treatment of hearing loss and balance disorders, which currently affect about 28 million Americans, Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) visiting investigators Jeffrey Corwin and Stefan Heller are working this summer to make large numbers of mouse stem cells "grow" into inner ear sensory hair cells-acoustic receptors that are a critical part of the auditory system.
The work is important because, in humans, inner ear sensory hair cells are a precious commodity. Humans are born with only about sixteen thousand of these sound detectors in each ear, which can be easily damaged by age, certain illnesses, exposure to loud sounds, and some medications. Once damaged, the cells do not easily grow back. And with the cell loss comes so-called irreversible hearing loss.
The two scientists are collaborating to develop new methods to expand and maintain adult stem cells isolated from the mouse inner ear to establish long-term stable cell lines. This is the first step toward the ultimate goal of creating implantable human hair cells that will grow happily; eventually repairing damaged hearing and restoring balance.
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Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
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