The inner ear contains many types of cell, including sensory hair cells and neurons. If these cells are damaged, they do not regenerate. Inner ear disorders have various etiologies. Some are related to aging or are idiopathic, as in sudden deafness. Others occur due to acoustic trauma, exposure to ototoxic drugs, viral infections, immune responses, or endolymphatic hydrops (Meniere’s disease). For these disorders, inner ear regeneration therapy is expected to be a feasible alternative to cochlear implants for hearing recovery. Recently, the mechanisms underlying inner ear regeneration have been gradually clarified. Inner ear cell progenitors or stem cells have been identified. Factors necessary for regeneration have also been elucidated from the mechanism of hair cell generation. Inducing differentiation of endogenous stem cells or inner ear stem cell transplantation is expected. In this paper, we discuss recent approaches to hair cell proliferation and differentiation for inner ear regeneration. We discuss the future road map for clinical application. The therapies mentioned above require topical administration of transgenes or drug onto progenitors of sensory cells. Developing efficient and safe modes of administration is clinically important. In this regard, we also discuss our development of an inner ear endoscope to facilitate topical administration.
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