Scientists have developed a new approach to repair cells deep inside the ear, a potential remedy that could restore hearing for millions of elderly people and others who suffer hearing loss.
A study, published in the journal Bioconjugate Chemistry, demonstrated a novel way for a drug to zero in on damaged nerves and cells inside the ear.
The research was conducted on animal tissues in a petri dish.
The drug targets the cochlea, a snail-like structure in the inner ear where sensitive cells convey sound to the brain, according to the researchers from University of Southern California in the US.
Hearing loss occurs due to ageing, working with noisy machines and too many loud concerts.
Over time, hair-like sensory cells and bundles of neurons that transmit their vibrations break down, as do ribbon-like synapses, which connect the cells.
The researchers designed a molecule combining 7,8-dihydroxyflavone, which mimics a protein critical for development and function of the nervous system, and bisphosphonate, a type of drug that sticks to bones.