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Hair cells
Hair Cells—Hair cells and dormant progenitor cells. Photo courtesy of Frequency Therapeutics

In 1985, we were living in Atlanta, Georgia, but still had a vacation cottage in Pennsylvania. We visited there for Thanksgiving that year and found our property, as expected, covered with leaves. I put the orange backpack leaf blower on and started blowing the leaves away. After a couple of hours, the gas was gone and the leaf blower stopped. I immediately heard a loud ringing in both ears, like from hearing a gun shot close by. Hearing protection was not widely known back then. Thirty-one years later, the ringing and hearing loss, called tinnitus, continues 24 x 7 x 365.

I have learned to live with tinnitus, and although my hearing is not perfect, it does not impact my ability to participate in board meetings or chat with friends at a noisy restaurant. However, The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that nearly 15% of the general public — over 50 million Americans — experience some form of tinnitus. An expert at Yale University Medical Center told me there was no cure and never would be. The first part of his pronouncement is true, but he should never have said never.

On January 5th, a Cambridge, MA based biotech startup company announced a new drug which may be the breakthrough many have longed for. Experiencing very loud noice from screeching subway trains, rock concerts, or leaf blowers can damage hair cells in our inner ears. Depending on which hair cells are damaged, a portion of audio frequency ranges cannot be heard and the normal audio is replaced with ringing.

The biotech company, called Frequency, has discovered a progenitor cell Lgr5+ which they believe is the key to restoring natural hearing. Progenitor cells are advanced stage human stem cells which develop into cells for a specific purpose, hearing for example. Frequency has developed a technique called Progenitor Cell Activation which uses small-molecule therapies to stimulate the progenitor cells to restore their purpose. The drug will be delivered as a gel and injected in the inner ear. The company hopes to begin human trials within 18 months.

See the full story at “Frequency, Led by MIT’s Langer, Aims to Fight Hearing Loss With Drugs“. Read more about regenerative medicine in Health Attitude: Unraveling and Solving the Complexities of Healthcare. We all know people who have some degree of hearing loss. Please do them a favor by recommending they visit johnpatrick.com and subscribe to the weekly e-brief. I will be writing more about this subject.

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