2

A newly emerging category of medical study is the potential to replace a missing piece, in part or in its entirety. While currently in its infancy, the potential for this in human health is astounding.

For example, this article from MIT, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), and Massachusetts Eye and Ear discusses a method for regrowing human ear hair cells, responsible for hearing, which is set to commence human trials in as little as a year. This article from University of Washington discusses research into regrowing partial primate hearts to obviate heart transplantation in humans. Research from the Free University of Brussels suggests the same is possible for human lungs.

Simplifying for the purpose of the question and disregarding those components that fall outside of voluntary control, if a deaf person were given new functioning cochlear hair cells, or an amputee were given a regrown arm, could the brain be taught to recognize and use the new piece, specifically in (1) cases of congenital loss and (2) cases of acquired loss, respectively, and how?

| |
  • 1
    What has your research provided when researching the effectiveness in use of cochlear implants for example? The fact that a cochlear implant helps a deaf person to hear surely implies that transplanting human ear hair cells (if feasible) could work. – Chris Rogers Feb 3 '19 at 7:25
  • 1
    There would likely be a very different answer based on what body part, whether it was congenitally absent vs traumatically lost vs age-related degeneration, and what special sense it involves. – DoctorWhom Feb 3 '19 at 9:48
  • If the person were congenitally deaf then the area of cortex used in hearing would have been co-opted for other purposes. – Graham Chiu Feb 3 '19 at 22:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.