Inner Ear Research Laboratory

Research group leaders

Staff

  • Stefan Hahnewald, PhD student
  • Michael Perny, PhD student
  • Ranjeeta Ambett, MD
  • Magdalena Solyga, Internship student, master in biomedical engineering
  • Ching Chia Ting, Internship student, master in molecular life science
  • Riccardo di Micco, Master Student

Research focuses

  • Inner Ear Regeneration
  • Stem cells
  • Cochlear implants
  • Otoprotection
  • Otoregeneration

Methods

  • In vitro recordings of electrophysiological activity on MEA of auditory neurons
  • In vitro culture of somatic cochlear progenitors
  • In vitro methods for embryonic stem cell differentiation to cochlear progenitors
  • In vivo models of hearing loss and local stem cell/drug delivery

Short description

Sound perception relies on the function of specialized sensory cells in the cochlea, the so-called hair cells, transducing sound waves to the auditory nerve and further to the brain. Loss of functional sensory cells is the leading cause of deafness worldwide. The current treatments for hearing loss consist of conventional hearing aids, for mild to moderate forms of hearing impairment, and cochlear implants (CIs), for severe forms and deafness. These devices enable to improve hearing in the majority of recipients, however are not a causal therapy and not suitable for all hearing impaired individuals. Birds, amphibians and fish can regenerate lost inner ear cell types from tissue resident stem cells and recover hearing to a normal degree from complete deafness. Translation of regenerative principles from lower vertebrates to humans is a promising way to find new and hopefully better hearing loss therapies in the future.

The mammalian inner ear lacks spontaneous regenerative capacity, however, stem cells activity can be triggered in specific experimental conditions and they can be isolated from different inner ear organs and cultured in vitro. Using complementary methods our laboratory address the possibility of using stem cells for tissue regeneration in the context of transplantation, drug screening and improving the interaction with cochlear implants.