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Nat Med. 2003 Oct;9(10):1293-9. Epub 2003 Aug 31.

Pluripotent stem cells from the adult mouse inner ear.

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Department of Otolaryngology and Program in Neuroscience, Harvard Medical School and Eaton Peabody Laboratory, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.


In mammals, the permanence of acquired hearing loss is mostly due to the incapacity of the cochlea to replace lost mechanoreceptor cells, or hair cells. In contrast, damaged vestibular organs can generate new hair cells, albeit in limited numbers. Here we show that the adult utricular sensory epithelium contains cells that display the characteristic features of stem cells. These inner ear stem cells have the capacity for self-renewal, and form spheres that express marker genes of the developing inner ear and the nervous system. Inner ear stem cells are pluripotent and can give rise to a variety of cell types in vitro and in vivo, including cells representative of ectodermal, endodermal and mesodermal lineages. Our observation that these stem cells are capable of differentiating into hair cell-like cells implies a possible use of such cells for the replacement of lost inner-ear sensory cells.

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