Did you know that nearly 90% of hearing loss can be attributed to the destruction of hair cells in the ear or auditory nerve cells? There is also reason to believe that once the inner ear hair cells have been destroyed, they cannot be replaced.
Science suggests that a developing hair cell inhibits its neighbouring cell from developing into another hair cell, and, instead, the latter develops into a supporting cell. Could a supporting cell, then, be induced to develop into a hair cell when its neighbouring cell has been destroyed? Scientists in the National Institue of Health (NIH), in the United States, ran an experiment to test this hypothesis. They destroyed the hair cells in mice, as a part of the experiment. A time lapse of the mice's ears showed the supporting cells migrating to the areas where the destroyed hair cells had once functioned and sprouting hair bundles on the surface.
Although this did not improve hearing in mice or restore the lost functionalities, it fuelled further research and underscored the importance of inner ear hair cells and their destruction and regrowth, in the process of hearing.