Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


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


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:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht NIH scientists describe potential antibody treatment for multidrug-resistant K. pneumoniae
14.03.2018 | NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

nachricht Researchers identify key step in viral replication
13.03.2018 | University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

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: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

A new kind of quantum bits in two dimensions

19.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Scientists have a new way to gauge the growth of nanowires

19.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>