Three-dimensional otic neuronal progenitor spheroids derived from human embryonic stem cells

Rachel A. Heuer, Kevin T. Nella, Hsiang Tsun Chang, Kyle S. Coots, Andrew M. Oleksijew, Christian B. Roque, Luisa H.A. Silva, Tammy L. McGuire, Kazuaki Homma, Akihiro J. Matsuoka*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Stem cell-replacement therapies have been proposed as a potential tool to treat sensorineural hearing loss by aiding the regeneration of spiral ganglion neurons (SGNs) in the inner ear. However, transplantation procedures have yet to be explored thoroughly to ensure proper cell differentiation and optimal transplant procedures. We hypothesized that the aggregation of human embryonic stem cell (hESC)-derived otic neuronal progenitor (ONP) cells into a multicellular form would improve their function and their survival in vivo post-Transplantation. We generated hESC-derived ONP spheroids-an aggregate form conducive to differentiation, transplantation, and prolonged cell survival-to optimize conditions for their transplantation. Our findings indicate that these cell spheroids maintain the molecular and functional characteristics similar to those of ONP cells, which are upstream in the SGN lineage. Moreover, our phenotypical, electrophysiological, and mechanical data suggest an optimal spheroid transplantation point after 7 days of in vitro three-dimensional (3D) culture. We have also developed a feasible transplantation protocol for these spheroids using a micropipette aided by a digital microinjection system. In summary, the present work demonstrates that the transplantation of ONP cells in spheroid form into the inner ear through micropipette 7 days after seeding for 3D spheroid culture is an expedient and viable method for stem cell replacement therapies in the inner ear.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)256-269
Number of pages14
JournalTissue Engineering - Part A
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Human embryonic stem cells
  • Inner ear
  • Spheroid
  • Spiral ganglion neurons
  • Stem cell niche
  • Stem cell replacement therapy
  • Three-dimensional culture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biomaterials


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