Attitudes of the UK ear, nose and throat clinical community to the future potential use of stem cell therapies to treat deafness

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Aims:Hearing loss is commonly due to the degeneration and death of hair cells and their associated spiral ganglion neurons. A total of 250 million people are affected worldwide. Stem cell treatments offer new and powerful strategies to enable recovery from hearing loss. This study focuses on the translational process required to move stem cell therapy from the laboratory to clinical use as a novel treatment of deafness and an alternative to conventional therapy. In particular, this study aims to inform and enable the adoption process for such therapies, including understanding the awareness of and attitudes towards stem cell therapy for hearing loss among ear, nose and throat surgeons, physicians, audiologists and scientists, who are key stakeholders in the adoption process.Methods:A structured questionnaire has been developed and applied to assess the knowledge and awareness of the clinical community with respect to the future potential use of stem cell therapies to treat deafness.Results:Results showed >87% of the clinicians sampled have very little or no knowledge of stem cell therapy. A total of 11% have been asked by patients about the use of stem cell therapies to treat deafness, and 64% felt a new treatment is needed for deafness. Significantly, 40% felt that a stem cell therapy would be a good adjuvant to a cochlear implant. In total, 78% were supportive of investment in stem cell therapy research and manufacturing. This investment should be in work directed at those areas where clinicians favor adoption.Conclusion:Alignment is required between the scientific and clinical communities. This should not only take into account the likelihood of scientific success when pursuing the therapeutic alternatives, but should also consider the clinical trial requirements, regulatory landscape and reimbursement conditions for each option.

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