Scientists Create Human Inner Ear ‘Organoids’ The development of a method to grow inner ear tissue from human stem cells could be a game-changer in how drugs and therapies for hearing and balance disorders are tested. The Indiana University (IU) School of Medicine study, published in Nature Biotechnology, was led by Karl R. Koehler, assistant professor ... Research in Brief
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Research in Brief  |   August 01, 2017
Scientists Create Human Inner Ear ‘Organoids’
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Balance & Balance Disorders / Research in Brief
Research in Brief   |   August 01, 2017
Scientists Create Human Inner Ear ‘Organoids’
The ASHA Leader, August 2017, Vol. 22, 18. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB3.22082017.18
The ASHA Leader, August 2017, Vol. 22, 18. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB3.22082017.18
The development of a method to grow inner ear tissue from human stem cells could be a game-changer in how drugs and therapies for hearing and balance disorders are tested.
The Indiana University (IU) School of Medicine study, published in Nature Biotechnology, was led by Karl R. Koehler, assistant professor in IU’s Department of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery.
By culturing human stem cells in a three-dimensional aggregate, rather than the traditional flat layer on a culture dish, and treating them with specific signaling molecules, the investigators guided cells through key processes involved in the development of the human inner ear. The results are inner ear “organoids,” or 3-D structures containing sensory cells and supporting cells found in the inner ear.

Researchers may be able to test potential drugs or therapies on these organoids, rather than on animal cells, which may not behave the same way as human cells.

The organoids contain sensory cells that have the same functional signature as cells in the human inner ear that detect gravity and motion. They also contain neurons that form connections with sensory cells, similar to those that transmit signals from the ear to the brain.
Researchers may be able to test potential drugs or therapies on these organoids, rather than on animal cells, which may not behave the same way as human cells. One study uses the organoids to examine how genes known to cause deafness interrupt normal development of the inner ear. Researchers also plan to use the organoids in the first-ever drug screening to discover drugs capable of helping to regenerate the sound-sending hair cells in the inner ear of people with severe hearing problems.
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August 2017
Volume 22, Issue 8