Hearing Restoration Project
Hearing Health Foundation’s Hearing Restoration Project (HRP) is the first and only international research consortium focused on investigating hair cell regeneration as a cure for hearing loss and tinnitus.
The overarching principle of the HRP consortium is cross-discipline collaboration: open sharing of data and ideas. By having almost immediate access to each other’s data, HRP scientists are able to perform follow-up experiments much faster, rather than having to wait years until data is published.
Scientists must receive continuous funding for their efforts. Research is not effective when it happens in fits and starts. It will take several years of hard work to find a safe and effective way to promote lasting recovery of hearing in humans.”
— HRP Scientist Jennifer S. Stone, Ph.D.
Primary treatments for hearing loss have been hearing aids and cochlear implants. While these have been successful, they have limitations.
This century, there are a number of different avenues for more natural and effective remedies such as gene therapy, targeting those who have lost hearing due to genetic factors. Most people who have lost hearing have done so through noise damage or aging, and may be candidates for hair cell regeneration or restoration.
“The question is not if we will regenerate hair cells in humans, but when.”
—HRP Scientific Director Peter Barr-Gillespie, Ph.D.
The HRP uses three different animal models for studying inner ear hair cell regeneration. Two of those models, the chick and zebrafish, show robust hair cell regeneration. If the hair cells of a chick or a fish are damaged, within a short time—only a day or two for the fish, a few weeks for the chick—new hair cells are formed. That’s a spectacular result, and it tells us that animals are capable of regenerating hair cells.
The mouse is our other experimental model. Like in humans, the mouse shows no hair cell regeneration; once damaged, hair cells are not restored. But if we use what we know about fish and birds to determine how to regenerate hair cells in the mouse, then we will be able to regenerate hair cells in people.