Loss of sensory hair cells in the inner ear is a major cause of permanent hearing loss, since regeneration of hair cells rarely occurs in mammals. The aim of this study was to examine the potential of neural stem cell transplantation to restore inner ear hair cells in mice. Fetal neural stem cells were transplanted into the mouse inner ear after drug-induced injury. Histological analysis demonstrates that the majority of grafted cells differentiated into glial or neural cells in the inner ear. Strikingly, however, we show that grafted cells integrate in vestibular sensory epithelia and express specific markers for hair cells. This finding suggests that transplanted neural stem cells have the potential to differentiate and restore inner ear hair cells.
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