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July 11, 2012

Stem Cells Restore Toddler's Congenital Hearing Loss

In a potentially revolutionary treatment, a two years old toddler born deaf has had her hearing restored after receiving stem cells from her banked umbilical cord blood. (Reported in ABC News)

Madeline Connor at age 1 year old was completely deaf in the right ear and had severe hearing loss on the left. Normally hearing aids or cochlear implant would have been the only options.

However, in January 2012 at the age of 2 years old, Madeline underwent a "simple" experiment whereby stem cells were infused into her damaged inner ear. The stem cells were derived from umbilical cord blood that was banked at the time of her delivery at the Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center.

Over the next 6 months, there has been dramatic improvement in her hearing. She is also now talking for the first time.

Madeline also is not the only child who has undergone this revolutionary stem cell treatment. Apparently, there are ten other children who are being followed after undergoing similar stem cell infusion derived from banked cord blood.

It must be stressed that though Madeline's progress is quite amazing, it is still too early to say if this is a "bona fide" treatment for congenital hearing loss.
  • Will the improvement continue and more importantly, last over years to decades?
  • Will it work for other children?
  • What is the expected hearing improvement with stem cell infusion?
  • Will it treat ALL forms of nerve-damaged hearing loss?
  • Does it have to be stem cells derived from cord blood or are stem cells derived from other sources possible (i.e., skin)?
  • Can adults with non-congential hearing loss also benefit?
I eagerly await the outcome of this FDA approved trial which hopefully will be published at some point in the near future.

I also eagerly await the protocol used to obtain and infuse the stem cells. I suspect the infusion of stem cells is similar to that done when steroids are infused into the ear for sudden hearing loss as shown in this video below. However, this is just a guess of mine.

Source:
Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids. Google+ Christopher Chang, MD Bio

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