Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

EU BIONIC EAR research project looks into new ways to cure deafness

12.12.2003


Results from the EU-funded BIONIC EAR project will be presented by the European Commission at this year’s annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB). The meeting opens tonight in San Francisco



The European Union is funding the 4-year BIONIC EAR project with €1.53 million out of a total budget of €2.77 million . BIONIC EAR looks into ways of repairing the inner ear whose hair cells are damaged by trauma, antibiotics or ageing, thus resulting in an irreversible hearing impairment, which affects more than 10 percent of the population. Project partners include the Université de Montpellier II (France), Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute (Sweden), the Institute of Neuroscience of the “Centro Nazionale Ricerche” (CNR) in Milan (Italy) and the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (Switzerland).

The French and Swedish researchers in particular have identified and isolated “progenitor” or adult stem cells from vestibular sensory epithelia (VSE) in mice, which could be differentiated into new sensory hair cells. Electronic stimulation of these cells, connected to the brain, could also help tackle deafness in humans.


“Every year, one European out of ten becomes deaf due to inner ear damage,” says European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin. “This can be avoided, and the findings of the BIONIC EAR project are very promising. However, more research is needed to prove that these newly differentiated hair cells could efficiently replace damaged elements of the human inner ear. If existing self-repair mechanisms could be enhanced or damaged hair cells be repaired with the help of adult stem cells, we could greatly contribute to the fight against hearing and balance impairments that severely disable so many people. The recognition of the potential of this research by the US and the international scientific community demonstrates that we are at the forefront in this and other scientific fields, and that European excellence paves the way to innovative cutting-edge research.”

EU research at the top

The 1340 projects submitted to this year’s ASCB were "peer-screened" by a specialised committee, and the BIONIC EAR project was included in a short list of top projects to be presented during the event. The research on the sensory hair-cell part of BIONIC EAR was carried out by Dr. Eric Scarfone’s CNRS laboratory at the Université de Montpellier II and by Dr. Mats Ulfendahl at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. The laboratory of Prof. Jonas Frisén, also at the Karolinska Institute, is bringing its expertise on adult stem cells to this part of the project, which also comprises three other European laboratories.

Wanted: stem cells in peripheral nervous system

For many years it has been thought that sensory hair cells and their connecting neurons could not be replaced. But growing reports on novel stem cell populations in the central nervous system have prompted European researchers within the BIONIC EAR project to look for stem cells in the inner ears of adult mice.

Repair mechanisms in the inner ear

The BIONIC EAR project aims at investigating new approaches to repair the inner ear. The project had previously shown that damaged connections between hair cells and sensory neurons of the inner ear could be repaired in vitro. The successful identification of stem cells in the inner ear of mice marks a new milestone in this project, which runs until the end of 2004. Together, these results demonstrate the potential for self-repair of the adult mammalian inner ear.

Fixing the damage

Researchers are now trying to turn the knowledge gained during the first 3 years of the project into therapeutic applications, by combining cell therapy (encapsulation in a three-dimensional (3D) polymer matrix of genetically engineered cells) and cochlear implants (an electronic device that directly stimulates the sensory neurons of the inner ear) in an animal model of pathological deafness.

High regenerative potential

The finding of a regenerative potential of adult mammalian inner ear hair cells and of their connections to the brain opens up a new, significant possibility for rehabilitation of sensory handicap linked to peripheral inner ear damage: the stimulation of existing self repair mechanisms. Much is left to learn about the factors that trigger and instruct these mechanisms before they can be put into practical use, and this is bound to become a major line of study.

Annual Meeting "Cell Biology 2003"

The 43rd Annual Meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) will be held between 13 and 17 December at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco. It will attract around 8 000 international cell biologists and about 50 science journalists who report on most recent progress in the field of cell biology world-wide.

Michael Wappelhorst | European Commission
Further information:
http://www.ascb.org/meetings/am2003/program.html

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht A 'half-hearted' solution to one-sided heart failure
24.11.2017 | Boston Children's Hospital

nachricht New study points the way to therapy for rare cancer that targets the young
22.11.2017 | Rockefeller University

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New proton record: Researchers measure magnetic moment with greatest possible precision

High-precision measurement of the g-factor eleven times more precise than before / Results indicate a strong similarity between protons and antiprotons

The magnetic moment of an individual proton is inconceivably small, but can still be quantified. The basis for undertaking this measurement was laid over ten...

Im Focus: Frictional Heat Powers Hydrothermal Activity on Enceladus

Computer simulation shows how the icy moon heats water in a porous rock core

Heat from the friction of rocks caused by tidal forces could be the “engine” for the hydrothermal activity on Saturn's moon Enceladus. This presupposes that...

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

IceCube experiment finds Earth can block high-energy particles from nuclear reactions

24.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 'half-hearted' solution to one-sided heart failure

24.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

Heidelberg Researchers Study Unique Underwater Stalactites

24.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>