By Barry Keate
Barry Keate, has lived with tinnitus over 40 years and has published 150+ research articles on numerous aspects of tinnitus. He is an expert on the condition and a well-known advocate for those with tinnitus.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently announced the development of a new drug that creates hair cells in the cochlea, resulting in improved hearing. Published in MIT News – March, 2022, the newsletter described the workings of the new drug and clinical trials that showed its effectiveness. (1)
The company, Frequency Therapeutics, is a spin-off from MIT’s Health Sciences and Technology Department. They have given the drug to over 200 people and found clinically significant improvements in speech perception in three different clinical investigations. In their first clinical trial several subjects showed statistically significant improvements in speech recognition after a single injection, with some responses lasting almost two years.
The images above show hair cell regeneration in pink. The untreated ear is on the left and the treated ear on the right.
“Speech perception is the No. 1 goal for improving hearing and the No. 1 need we hear from patients,” Frequency co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer Chris Loose states. “Some of these people in the trials couldn’t hear for 30 years and for the first time they said they could go into a crowded restaurant and hear what their children were saying.”
Most of us know someone affected by hearing loss, which can lead to isolation, frustration and a debilitating ringing in the ears known as tinnitus. It is also closely correlated with dementia.
There are many conditions that can cause tinnitus but hearing loss is the predominant one. Hearing loss is the primary or co-factor in at least 70-75% of cases of tinnitus.
Frequency Therapeutics has developed a small molecule medication that activates progenitor cells in the cochlea to produce hair cells. These cells vibrate when exposed to sound and pass an electrical signal to the auditory cortex in the brain. This is the foundation of hearing. Like stem cells, progenitor cells can turn into more specialized cells in the body.
Progenitor cells reside in the inner ear and generate hair cells when humans are in utero, before they are born. But they become dormant before birth and never again turn into more specialized cells such as the hair cells of the cochlea. Humans are born with about 15,000 hair cells in each cochlea. These cells die over time and never regenerate.
One of Frequency Therapeutic’s founders, MIT Health Sciences and Technology faculty member, Jeff Karp, is already gratified to have been able to help people improve their hearing through the trials. He thinks they are making important contributions toward solving a problem that impacts more than 40 million people in the US and hundreds of millions more around the world.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if in 10 or 15 years we can get to the point where reversing hearing loss would be similar to Lasik surgery, where you’re in and out in an hour or two and you can completely restore your vision,” Karp says, “I think we’ll see the same thing for hearing loss.”
Frequency Therapeutics is now recruiting for a 124-person clinical trial from which preliminary results should be available early next year. If you are interested in participating in the trial, more information can be found here: https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT05086276
While we wait for this drug to become clinically available, Arches Tinnitus Formula is effective in reducing the sound level of tinnitus. It is especially effective for those who have hearing loss and tinnitus, with an effective rate of 75-80% in those patients, according to a prominent New York ENT.
Published May 27, 2022