Grace’s First Gift: How One Family is Taking on Hearing Loss

When Sarah Huber was pregnant, she had no idea her daughter, Grace, would be born with sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL). Some types of hearing loss are genetic, but most are caused by environmental factors like infection or premature birth.

While working in the gynecology field, Sarah heard stories from doctors about their patients preserving their newborn’s stem cells. When it was time to consider preserving Grace’s, she learned how they’re being used as part of established treatments—and explored as potential treatment options—for many conditions.

“Science moves fast,” she says. “So who knows how many conditions these cells might help treat by the time my children are older?”

So she and her husband, Mark, decided to preserve Grace’s cord blood at birth. 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 kick start repair.

And today, Grace has completed a clinical trial to research how her cord blood stem cells may help treat her hearing loss.

“What can I tell you about Grace?” Sarah says. “She’s so resilient. She’s outgoing, strong-willed, and always thinking about what she wants to be when she grows up. Right now, that’s a firefighter.”

When they preserved Grace’s cord blood with CBR, the Hubers also joined the Family Health Registry, which helps connect families to research and clinical trials. That’s how they discovered Grace was eligible to participate in a study testing the use of newborn stem cells to treat her hearing loss.

In addition to showing that the cord blood infusions were safe, and well tolerated, 5 of the 11 children showed improvements on the “Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) test” after their infusion.

Researchers are hopeful this is an indication that newborn stem cells may have helped the ear repair itself in these children. They’re already preparing for the next phase of the clinical trial, which will test the efficacy of treating hearing loss with cord blood stem cells.

In a few years, newborn stem cell therapy will hopefully help broaden the treatment options for children with acquired hearing loss and other conditions. The future looks bright for Grace and cord blood stem cells!

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