The ability to hear music and keep balanced when upright is dependent on mechanosensory “hair cells” in the inner ear that convert vibrations into electrical signals . They are located inside the organ of Corti within the snail-shaped cochlea of the inner ear. The actin rich steoreocilia or “hairs” on the cell surface are bundled into V shapes and form discontinuous rows on the surface of the hair cell. The human organ of Corti has about 16,000 hair cells. Hair cell dysfunction, damage or death can lead to hearing loss and balance problems. For example, hearing loss and balance issues are common in the elderly and can be due to the loss of hair cells . Most noise induced hearing loss is caused by the damage and eventual death of hair cells . Unfortunately, due to their inaccessibility and limited replicative capacity hair cells have been difficult for scientist to study.
Drs. Eri Hashino and Karl Koehler of Indiana University have developed patented methods for generating human inner ear organoids from pluripotent stem cells in vitro . These organoids provide a renewable source to generate functional hair cells that will be useful for many applications from basic research to drug screening. STEMCELL Technologies has licensed the method to generate inner ear organoids and plans to develop products that will allow scientists to culture hair cells. The company offers over 2500 products designed to support the basic to translational research continuum.
“It is exciting that STEMCELL Technologies has licensed the inner ear organoid technology,” Karl Koehler said. “STEMCELL’s leadership in this sector means there will be an opportunity for scientists worldwide to use inner ear organoids to conduct research that may lead to new treatments for people affected by hearing and balance issues.”
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