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Retention of progenitor cell phenotype in otospheres from guinea pig and mouse cochlea

Jeanne Oiticica1*, Luiz Carlos M Barboza-Junior1, Ana Carla Batissoco2, Karina Lezirovitz1, Regina C Mingroni-Netto2, Luciana A Haddad2 and Ricardo F Bento1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Otolaryngology, Medical School, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brasil

2 Department of Genetics and Evolutionary Biology, Institute of Biosciences, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brasil

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Journal of Translational Medicine 2010, 8:119  doi:10.1186/1479-5876-8-119

Published: 18 November 2010



Culturing otospheres from dissociated organ of Corti is an appropriate starting point aiming at the development of cell therapy for hair cell loss. Although guinea pigs have been widely used as an excellent experimental model for studying the biology of the inner ear, the mouse cochlea has been more suitable for yielding otospheres in vitro. The aim of this study was to compare conditions and outcomes of otosphere suspension cultures from dissociated organ of Corti of either mouse or guinea pig at postnatal day three (P3), and to evaluate the guinea pig as a potential cochlea donor for preclinical cell therapy.


Organs of Corti were surgically isolated from P3 guinea pig or mouse cochlea, dissociated and cultivated under non-adherent conditions. Cultures were maintained in serum-free DMEM:F12 medium, supplemented with epidermal growth factor (EGF) plus either basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) or transforming growth factor alpha (TGFα). Immunofluorescence assays were conducted for phenotype characterization.


The TGFα group presented a number of spheres significantly higher than the bFGF group. Although mouse cultures yielded more cells per sphere than guinea pig cultures, sox2 and nestin distributed similarly in otosphere cells from both organisms. We present evidence that otospheres retain properties of inner ear progenitor cells such as self-renewal, proliferation, and differentiation into hair cells or supporting cells.


Dissociated guinea pig cochlea produced otospheres in vitro, expressing sox2 and nestin similarly to mouse otospheres. Our data is supporting evidence for the presence of inner ear progenitor cells in the postnatal guinea pig. However, there is limited viability for these cells in neonatal guinea pig cochlea when compared to the differentiation potential observed for the mouse organ of Corti at the same developmental stage.