Advances in translational inner ear stem cell research
Stem cell research is expanding our understanding of developmental biology as well as promising the development of new therapies for a range of different diseases. Within hearing research, the use of stem cells has focused mainly on cell replacement. Stem cells however have a broad range of other potential applications that are just beginning to be explored in the ear. Mesenchymal stem cells are an adult derived stem cell population that have been shown to produce growth factors, modulate the immune system and can differentiate into a wide variety of tissue types. Potential advantages of mesenchymal/adult stem cells are that they have no ethical constraints on their use. However, appropriate regulatory oversight seems necessary in order to protect patients from side effects. Disadvantages may be the lack of efficacy in many preclinical studies. But if proven safe and efficacious, they are easily translatable to clinical trials. The current review will focus on the potential application on mesenchymal stem cells for the treatment of inner ear disorders.