The inner ear lets you enjoy music, understand speech, and stay balanced. We craft tiny replicas of this organ using human stem cells. These scientifically termed “inner ear organoids” offer a fascinating window into the complexity of hearing and balance. Studying the human inner ear has been challenging; however, our mini organs mimic the human counterpart in many aspects, aiding research on the normal development and almost anything that can affect its function.
Our ongoing research using the stem cell-derived inner ear organoid model has the capacity to fundamentally transform the landscape of treatments for hearing and balance disorders. By deciphering inner ear complexities of development and its diseases, we’re advancing medical knowledge, offering hope to millions affected by auditory issues and balance disorders. The future sounds brighter and more balanced.
reNEW’s Otobiology Leiden research group led by Heiko Locher, MD, PhD, works on expanding the inner ear research toolbox by studying the development, diseases and regeneration of this sensory organ. The inner ear organoids are an important addition to this toolbox. These mini organs are currently used to mimic, study and cure some of the most common causes of hearing loss and balance disorders.
Sensory Marvel Unveiled: Neurons (orange) connect to the sound- and movement-sensing hair cells (red), orchestrating the sensory wonderland of the inner ear amidst other cells in our mini organs (cyan).
Wouter van der Valk, MD, Heiko Locher’s lab, LUMC, reNEW Leiden