Of all the forms of deafness, auditory neuropathy is of particular concern. Auditory neuropathy is a form of sensorineural deafness specifically affecting the conduction of the nerve impulse from the cochlear hair cells to the auditory centres of the brain.
This condition, defined primarily by damage to the auditory neurons with relative preservation of the hair cells, is responsible for a substantial proportion of patients with hearing impairment. While the loss of hair cells can be circumvented partially by a cochlear implant, no routine treatment is available for sensory neuron loss since poor innervation clearly limits the performance of an implant.
Given the absence of an endogenous regenerative response, the use of an external source for cell replacement is a viable concept in hearing loss therapeutics. Rinri’s approach is to utilise the power of pluripotent stem cells in a ‘cell replacement’ therapeutic strategy in which a functioning auditory nerves are regenerated by transplanting appropriate cells to replace and recover the damaged sensory circuitry and restore hearing.