Stem cells are undifferentiated biological cells that can differentiate into specialized cells and can divide (through mitosis) to produce more stem cells. They are found in multicellular organisms. In mammals, there are two broad types of stem cells: embryonic stem cells, which are isolated from the inner cell mass of blastocysts, and adult stem cells, which are found in various tissues. In adult organisms, stem cells and progenitor cells act as a repair system for the body, replenishing adult tissues. In a developing embryo, stem cells can differentiate into all the specialized cells—ectoderm, endoderm and mesoderm (see induced pluripotent stem cells)—but also maintain the normal turnover of regenerative organs, such as blood, skin, or intestinal tissues.

Generation of hair cells by stepwise differentiation of embryonic stem cells

The increase in life expectancy is accompanied by the growing burden of chronic diseases. Hearing loss is perhaps the most prevalent of all chronic diseases. In addition to age-related hearing loss, a substantial number of cases of audiological impairment are either congenital in nature or acquired during childhood. The permanence of hearing loss is mainly due to the inability of the cochlear sensory epithelium to replace lost mechanoreceptor cells, or hair cells.