Scientific reports

Pseudo-immortalization of postnatal cochlear progenitor cells yields a scalable cell line capable of transcriptionally regulating mature hair cell genes.

PMID 26639154


The mammalian cochlea is a highly specialized organ within the inner ear. Sensory hair cells (HC) in the cochlea detect and transduce sound waves into electrical impulses that are sent to the brain. Studies of the molecular pathways regulating HC formation are hindered by the very sparse nature of HCs, where only ~3300 are found within an entire mouse cochlea. Current cell lines mimic certain aspects of HCs but lack terminal HC marker expression. Here we successfully "pseudo-immortalized" cochlear progenitor cells using the "conditional reprogramming" technique. These cells, termed "Conditionally Reprogrammed Otic Stem Cells" (CR-OSC), are able to bypass the senescence inherent to cochlear progenitor cells without genetic alterations, allowing for the generation of over 15 million cells from a single cochlea. These cells can be differentiated and up-regulate both early and terminal differentiation genes associated with HCs, including the terminal HC differentiation marker prestin. CR-OSCs also respond to known HC cues, including upregulation of HC genes in response to Atoh1 overexpression, and upregulation of prestin expression after thyroid hormone application. Overall, we describe the creation of a HC line capable of regulated expression of HC genes that can easily be recreated in any laboratory from any mouse of interest.