With CBR’s support, researchers at the Comprehensive Pediatric Epilepsy Center at the Florida Hospital for Children have conducted an FDA-regulated clinical trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of using cord blood to treat children with a specific type of hearing loss called sensorineural hearing loss, or SNHL.
What exactly is SNHL?
SNHL is caused by dysfunction or damage to the fragile hair cells, called cilia, in the inner ear. It’s commonly caused by things like infections, premature birth, or impacts to the head. Currently, it has no cure.
But researchers are interested in studying cord blood as a potential treatment for children with SNHL because the cells in the cord blood may be able to travel to the site of injury in the inner ear and help kickstart repair.
Although hearing aids and cochlear implants can be helpful to some children, these treatment options do not address the underlying cause of hearing loss.
As Dr. James Baumgartner, Surgical Director of the Comprehensive Pediatric Epilepsy Center at Florida Hospital for Children, puts it, “A child’s hearing ability affects the development of language skills and future academic and social development. This is why it is crucial that hearing impairment needs to be identified and addressed as early in life as possible.”
So we set out on a mission to help.
Tell me about the SNHL research
The phase 1 clinical trial sought to assess the safety and preliminary efficacy of cord blood infusions for children with acquired SNHL (meaning their hearing loss is not genetic).
The 11 children who participated ranged in age from 6 months to 6 years old. Each child was a CBR client whose cord blood had been preserved at birth. They received an IV infusion of their own cord blood and were monitored for potential side effects, then followed for one year, testing for changes related to hearing and brain function.
What did the study find?
In addition to showing that the cord blood infusions were safe, feasible, and well tolerated, 5 of the 11 children showed improvements on the “Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) test” after their infusion.
These results suggest that the cord blood may have helped to promote healing of the inner ear in some of the children.1
Unlike other injuries or conditions, hearing loss is irreversible. Due to the nature of the inner ear, once the cilia in the ear are gone, they cannot regenerate themselves.
So, while this study was small, cord blood research for children with SNHL sounds hopeful. We’ll need larger studies to continue the research on hearing loss and the potentially exciting options it could open up to patients and families.
We like the sound of that!
Citation: Baumgartner LS, Moore E, Shook D, et al. Safety of Autologous Umbilical Cord Blood Therapy for Acquired Sensorineural Hearing Loss in Children. Journal of Audiology & Otology 2018 Aug. doi: 10.7874/jao.2018.