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What are stem cells and how can stem cells treat hearing loss? What’s going on with human trials for hearing regeneration? When can we expected new treatments on the market? And will regenerating hearing resolve tinnitus? These kinds of questions will be answered in this podcast!

Tinnitus Talk spoke with Marcelo Rivolta, professor of Sensory Stem Cell Biology at the University of Sheffield. He explains the basic concepts of stem cells and the different approaches to hearing regeneration. It’s fascinating science, but there are a number of roadblocks to be cleared before patients can benefit.

Marcelo also announces that he received a research grant and used it to start a biotechnology company called Rinri. If you want to stay up to date with the progress of Rinri, please visit their website.

The interview with Marcelo was conducted by Steve Harrison (Tinnitus Talk) and David Stockdale (British Tinnitus Association). As added bonus material at the end, Hazel and Markku discuss the Tinnitus Talk Podcast ‘behind the scenes.’

Skip to: 00:00 Introduction to Stem Cells.

We need to show that the cells themselves are safe […] that they will not produce tumours.

Skip to: 07:20 Targeting the Correct Area with Stem Cells.

Skip to: 11:41 Types of Hearing Loss, and How Much Can be Recovered.

Neuropathic deafness is probably a better candidate because the nerve is more accessible […] The hair cell remains the main target, but it is still very, very challenging to get there.

Skip to: 17:05 From Animal to Human Models.

Skip to: 19:17 How can Stem Cells Treat Hearing Loss?

Induced pluripotent stem cells are very attractive, because the cells can be taken from the same patient […] you can generate the specific cell type for the ear […] and then you transplant them and use that as a therapy.

Skip to: 21:46 Ongoing Clinical Trials.

Skip to: 24:21 Success Factors for Hearing Restoration.

Skip to: 28:57 Experimental Treatments: Platelet Rich Plasma Injections.

Skip to: 31:32 Will Hearing Regeneration Resolve Tinnitus?

Steve: Do you believe that regenerating hearing will actually resolve tinnitus?
Marcelo: Probably yes, it will have a very positive impact.

Skip to: 33:06 Getting to Market.

Skip to: 42:03 Behind the Scenes with Markku and Hazel

Discuss this episode on the Tinnitus Talk Forum, or submit a reply below.

Comments (18)
  1. Very encouraging indeed. However, I may have a situation in which the plan would not necessarily target the main problem. I have tinnitus 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the past 13 to 15 years. The peculiar situation I speak of is that I have no hearing loss. As a matter of fact my hearing is better than it was at 20 years old, 50 years ago. I am at a loss to find relief as most all positive findings include regenerative hearing, something that I don’t seem to need.

  2. Because I am totally deaf I do not hear ringing in my ears. Instead I feel it in my head and body. I feel vibrations as if there is a running motor or drums banging around me. It also feels as if there is a train going by nearby. The drums sound like an American Indian booming on drums. It happens more if I sit down and relax but can happen when visiting anyplace. Is this tinnitus?

    • I’m no medical expert but from what I’ve read tinnitus sufferers report all sorts of sounds.

      Not deaf myself, but my 24/7 sound is like a never-ending mosquito in the ear. Except when my brain overloads, then it’s like standing under a waterfall – a deafening roar and/or total distortion.

      Interesting that you notice it more when you relax. Same for me, with hearing.

    • It’s not uncommon at all for tinnitus to take this form, Alice. We (Tinnitus Hub) did a survey some time ago and found that some 30% or so of tinnitus sufferers perceive it in their head or elsewhere.

      Feel free to join us on tinnitustalk.com – the biggest online support forum, to get more advice from peers.

  3. My Tinnitus comes and goes. Which does seem quite odd to me? One day really intrusive noise in my ear and the next day when I wake up total silence. What is going on in my brain for this to happen? Sometimes I will have tinnitus for two days and one day silence sometimes I will have two days of silence and then tinnitus the next. Anybody have any answers? Of course it is nice to be able to expearience silence as I know so many people with this affliction have it 24/7. My sympathy goes out them.

    • I would give anything for just 5 minutes of silence. I have hearing loss, worse in my left ear and constant very loud tinnitus which sounds like it comes from inside my head with tone changes from right to left side.
      The sound is quite hard to describe. One constant is like extremely high octave chimes that never stop.
      Then suddenly I’ll get a humming sound that will come and go and sometimes I hear buzzing like a mosquito in my right ear. All of this is on top of the constant high pitched chimes,

      I think when the time comes for me to die I’ll know it because that’s the when the sound will finally stop.
      Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suicidal at all, but I’m 66 years old now and it would be a miracle if a cure was found before I’m gone.

      Warning to concert goers or those that work in loud environments, of which I’ve been both.
      Turn down the volume on your music, don’t stand next to those 8 ft high speakers at concerts and wear ear plugs when you need them.
      I’m sure all of those things contributed to my tinnitus and hearing loss.
      I think even if I go completely deaf I will never hear silence again.

      • You’re right. Deaf people that suffer from tinnitus only hear the tinnitus. No background, so it’s worse. I totally agree with you about the loud environments and I think a lot of venues have gotten louder than they were back in “the day” (I’m 68). I have so many potential causes, I can’t even list them all, but I worked in a plant in 2006 with pumps that generated 110 dB, so that’s probably what caused mine. I warn my 32-year-old daughter about the loud music, but like a lot of us, she seems to think she’s invincible or that she’ll deal with it later. I wish I could go back and re-do some of my noisy situations. I do hope either stem cell or some other means of diminishing tinnitus comes along for the younger folks with tinnitus.

  4. Finally there is talk about regeneration. Stem cell therapy sounds very encouraging. This in my opinion is the only cure for tinnitus. I am doing it slowly using Low Level Laser Therapy. LLLT. It is working but, slowly and you must not be around noise. Look up Dr. Lutz Wilden at Lux Spa if you’re curious.

  5. Tinnitus Talk is a wonderful initiative. My thanks go to the founders for your efforts in getting this happening. Not easy.

    I suffer tinnitus and in this talk, something struck me. It was mentioned that ‘other health issues’ are more dire or need more urgent addressing therefore they get priority for funding for research and support. If we stopped being so calm about tinnitus and demanded this symptom be seen as significant which I believe it is because it affects people’s mental health and well-being and does cause suicidal thoughts in millions of sufferers. There are various levels of tinnitus. Some people can cope and ignore the sounds. But to ignore tens of millions of people globally who ARE dying a thousand deaths and who are grieving loss of calm peace and silence is simply not humane. I am struggling, I am no longer the person I was before I acquired tinnitus, and whilst I am coping, and some days I walk a very fine line, I don’t want to COPE with life – I want to LIVE it!

    We have to make as much noise to governments, philanthropists and the media, as much noise as we experience in our ears and heads, and demand the peace we deserve. We need to disrupt and change the hearing health landscape, particularly regarding tinnitus. People with hearing loss have been quiet and accepting for too long.

    Being pro-active for me helps me feel less a victim of the screaming in my ears. I will follow these podcasts and would be very happy to help in any way I can to raise these issues in a public forum and beyond.

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