Researchers at Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Harvard Medical School have managed to regenerate tiny hairs in the ears of deaf mice and reverse deafness.
The researchers injected a drug into the mice that had no sound detecting hairs left in their ears and were able to create new hairs. While complete hearing ability was no restored, the researchers found that the mice were able to detect sounds such as those generated by traffic or slamming of the door.
The researchers said that the findings were "tremendously exciting" but added that their use in humans was still some years away.
"It hasn't been possible to regenerate hair cells in adult mammals before, this is very exciting. It shows for the first time that it's possible. There was a slight improvement, but not a huge improvement. They can detect a loud noise in a low frequency, something like a door slamming or traffic - but this is definitely not normal hearing", Dr Albert Edge, who was part of the study, said. The study has been published in the journal Neuron.