Researchers regenerate inner ear cells
Frankfurt/Stanford – Most types of deafness arise from loss of parts the 15,000 hair cells of the inner ear. A US-German research team headed by Prof. Stefan Heller has, for the first time, succeeded in regenerating hair cell-like cells in the lab (Cell. 2010; 141 (4): 704-16). By adding specific growth factors to embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells from mice, they grew cells that resemble sensory hair cells that act as mechanoelectric transducers in the inner ear. According to Heller, the sensory hair cells derived from optic progentor cells responded to mechanical stimulation with currents that were reminiscent of immature hair cell transduction currents. The vision of the researchers is to identify the factors that direct cells of the inner ear to develop into hair cells.