Unless you're well versed in marine biology, your working knowledge of sea anemones is likely pretty limited. For most of us, sea anemones are probably most recognizable from the film "Finding Nemo," as the titular clownfish and his father, Marlin, lived inside of one. Although sea anemones may look like wriggly, underwater plants, they are actually animals, related somewhat closely to jellyfish and corals.
Recently, this unique creature has been getting attention from an unexpected source: hearing loss researchers. So why are these scientists interested in sea anemones? Well, as it turns out these underwater animals may just hold the secret to reversing hearing loss in humans.
The Cause of Hearing Loss
For a number of different reasons, the rate of hearing loss in on the rise. For starters, the Baby Boomer generation is moving into retirement age, and as age increases so does the likelihood of developing hearing problems. Also, the high usage rate for personal listening devices, such as iPhones and MP3 players, means that a lot of people, Millennials in particular, are being exposed to dangerous levels of noise that can damage hearing receptors.
In humans, sound is captured by tiny hairs inside the inner ear. These sounds are then relayed to the brain where the hearing centers process the auditory information. When these small hairs are damaged, either as the result of advanced age or excessive noise, the ability of the hairs to intake information is diminished, and our hearing ability suffers.
How Can Sea Anemones Help?
Sea Anemones may look absolutely nothing like human beings, but they actually process sound in the same way: through small, hair-like cochlea. But unlike humans, when these hearing sensors are damages or destroyed, sea anemones actually have the ability to repair them. And if that's not impressive enough, this repair work is often done in a matter of hours.
So can this natural ability of sea anemones benefit humans who suffer from hearing loss? This is the question that a group of researchers recently sought to answer, and as it turns out the answer may be yes. For the experiment, scientists removed tissue from the inner ears of mice then damaged the hair-like cochlea. Next, the damaged hairs were soaked in a solution that included the anemone cochlear proteins for an hour. At the end of that time, the hairs in many cases had almost fully recovered from the damage.
Obviously, more testing will need to be performed to determine whether or not using sea anemone proteins is a viable treatment for human beings. Still, this is an amazing first step to show that certain types of hearing loss in humans could be cured in the future through a very unconventional method.
If you or someone you know would like to learn more about hearing loss and how to treat it, please feel free to schedule a consultation or contact one of our representatives today!