Cord blood stem cells may restore hearing

Jan. 20, 2012 at 8:08 PM
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HOUSTON, Jan. 20 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers are undergoing a phase I safety study using a child's umbilical cord blood stem cells to try to restore hearing loss.

Dr. James Baumgartner, sponsor of the study and guest research collaborator at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Medical School, said the yearlong study will follow 10 children, ages 6 weeks to 18 months, who have sustained post-birth hearing loss. Children who are deaf as a result of a genetic anomaly or syndrome are not eligible for the test.

"Children only have 18 months to acquire language skills and, if a child does not hear well, they will not acquire the language skills to speak normally," Baumgartner said in a statement.

The children will undergo a series of blood tests, hearing and speech tests and magnetic resonance imaging that will view the tracts that send signals from the inner ear to the brain.

Researchers will obtain and process the patients' stored cord blood for treatment and the stem cells will be given to the patients via IV infusion and patients will be observed for several hours in the hospital.

Patients will return to the hospital to repeat all tests except the MRI at one month and one year, and all tests

with an MRI at six months.

"This study is exciting because it might offer a non-surgical option for some children with profound hearing loss," Baumgartner said. "More importantly, this is the first treatment with the potential to restore normal hearing."

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