Stem Cells Could Cure Deafness

Scientists have created stem cells that could be used to reverse hearing loss, the BBC reported Thursday.

Stem cells from embryos can be used to replace damaged cells in the inner ear - helping deaf humans to hear again, scientists at the UK's Sheffield University found.

The embryonic stem cells could be converted into workable hearing cells for people born with inherited hearing problems and who've suffered damage to their ear cells during their lifetime.

"The potential of stem cells is very exciting," lead researcher Dr. Marcelo Rivolta said.

Rivolta said a full deafness "cure" via stem cells could be on the way in the next decade.

The breakthrough stem-cell discovery is "incredibly promising" and "opens up exciting possibilities," Dr. Ralph Holme, a biomedical researcher, told the BBC.

But the stem-cell research could be halted by critics who argue that the controversial process destroys embryos in the name of science - a debate that's raged since stem-cell studies began years ago.

President Barack Obama earlier this year lifted the ban on embryonic stem-cell research, reinforcing the science world's belief that studying embryonic cells is necessary for the development of new medical treatments.

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