Recently, researchers from Indiana University and Harvard established a method for developing human inner ear organoids in 3D culture. As described in Nature Biotechnology (Koehler et al., 2017), differentiated human pluripotent stem cells into an inner ear-like organ (organoid) with functional hair cells. The advantage of this approach is the use of human cells that are different from animal models. The process will not serve as a tissue replacement anytime soon but will be a compelling tool for the understanding mechanism underlying inner ear development, genetic disease, and development of potential therapies.
Koehler K, Nie J, Longworth-Mills E, Liu X, Lee J, Holt J, Hashino E. (2017) Generation of inner ear organoids containing functional hair cells from human pluripotent stem cells. Nature Biotechnology, epub. May 1.