Great Video out of Stanford on Biological Cure

During a lot of my research on hearing loss and what sort of things are coming down the pipe for the next few years, I discovered Stanford’s Initiative to Cure Hearing Loss. I love just about everything about what they’re doing, down to the boldness of saying that they’re looking for a “cure,” which some sects of the Deaf community would likely be offended with. They’re approaching the biological fix from a few different angles (stem cells, gene therapy, molecular) and have made some pretty amazing strides.

I visited their site today just to check and see if there were any updates, and they actually posted a video that’s about an hour and a half long talking about where they are, how close they are, next steps, etc. It was a great state of the union.

tl;dw version:

  • Multiple approaches are being used because there’s multiple forms of deafness. The one that MIGHT be significant to Alex is a stem cell solution to re-grow the hair cells that may have been destroyed by the antibiotic that was given to Alex after he was born. The neat thing about this is that it’s slightly easier to remedy compared to a genetic issue, because Alex’s DNA is, to our knowledge, healthy, so no genetic issues would have to be spliced out prior to inserting into his ear.  Pretty cool.
  • Lots of parallels made to the Manhattan project and the idea that if you get a lot of smart people into a room, things get figured out quickly.
  • No real figure on when the “cure” will be made available, but the doctors all discussed it like an eventuality.  They didn’t specifically SAY this, but the highest hypothetical figure they gave out was 15 years.
  • Interesting point about how the team feels that they’re getting close to solving issues that big pharma will take notice and start pumping resources into them.
  • The video was clearly a fundraising type of thing, but they cited some pretty real examples of what they could get done NOW if they had more funding now.

The confidence that the team displayed regarding getting a cure out there has me pretty pumped up. I keep on looking at Alex’s CIs and telling myself that his current solution is the worst sounding and most invasive that he’ll ever have to deal with and that it’s all going to be downhill from here, but the idea that Alex could be given ear drops and just nullify the issue… that’s going to be amazing.

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A Little Optimism

This is a short one, but was ready for something a little more uplifting after my last entry.

I’ve spent a good chunk of my lunch break on Google looking up my favorite topic, hearing loss. Typically when I hunt around, it’s for news on the cochlear implant, but today I decided to look a little more broadly, so I searched around for “Deaf cure.”  I apologize in advance if you take personal offense to the combination of those two words, but it’s a popular search term. Also, you probably shouldn’t be reading this blog.

The results of the search were pretty cool. Just about everything I read was recent or semi-recent, and all projections were that a flat-out biological fix for dead hair cells, the most common cause for deafness by a landslide, were roughly ten or so years away. These weren’t written by over-optimistic bloggers like me, they were from real organizations and real studies performed that have traction.

This isn’t anything I’m going to cling to for dear life, but wow – if that comes to fruition and Alex has his biological hearing before he even hits his teens, no strings attached, no equipment… just an incredible thought. It sounds incredibly too good to be true, but it’s already happened before with Polio, measles, smallpox.

My favorite bit from a scientist who’s working at a solution using stem cells: “I do know when I see a baby right now who hasn’t any hearing whatsoever, probably in her lifetime, [she] will have regenerate therapy available for her.”

Yes, please.