The adult mammalian inner ear lacks the capacity to divide or regenerate. Damage to inner ear generally leads to permanent hearing loss in humans. Here, we present that reprogramming of the adult inner ear induces renewed proliferation and regeneration of inner ear cell types. Co-activation of cell cycle activator Myc and inner ear progenitor gene Notch1 induces robust proliferation of diverse adult cochlear sensory epithelial cell types. Transient MYC and NOTCH activities enable adult supporting cells to respond to transcription factor Atoh1 and efficiently transdifferentiate into hair cell-like cells. Furthermore, we uncover that mTOR pathway participates in MYC/NOTCH-mediated proliferation and regeneration. These regenerated hair cell-like cells take up the styryl dye FM1-43 and are likely to form connections with adult spiral ganglion neurons, supporting that Myc and Notch1 co-activation is sufficient to reprogram fully mature supporting cells to proliferate and regenerate hair cell-like cells in adult mammalian auditory organs.
The adult mammalian inner ear cells cannot regenerate nor proliferate. Here, the authors show that co-activation of Myc and NOTCH pathways can stimulate proliferation of inner ear sensory epithelial cells, which can be induced to become hair cell-like cells in vitro and in vivo.