3D Stem Cell Biology Research Group

A part of the Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery at IU School of Medicine, the 3D Stem Cell Biology Research Group uses state-of-the-art stem cell and genetic engineering techniques to investigate new approaches to inner-ear therapy.

Sensorineural hearing loss, the most common form of hearing loss, is caused by the degeneration or dysfunction of sensory hair cells or sensory neurons in the inner ear. Pluripotent stem cells have a unique capacity to become any cell type in the body and could be used to regenerate inner ear sensory cells or test new drugs before clinical trials.

Lead researchers in the group recently discovered a three-dimensional (3D) culture method for deriving mini inner ear organs, called inner ear organoids, which contain the sensory cells of the inner ear and function similarly to native inner ear organs. With this discovery, the 3D Stem Cell Biology Research Group is investigating unanswered questions about normal embryonic development and attempting to model congenital/progressive hearing disorders in a culture dish. Their ultimate goal is to produce new regenerative therapies for profound hearing loss.

To succeed in this endeavor, the 3D Stem Cell Biology Research Group is collaborating with a diverse team of scientists and clinician-scientists at IU School of Medicine in the departments of biochemistry, cell biology, neurobiology, developmental biology, bioengineering and chemistry.

Primary Investigators

The founder the 3D Stem Cell Biology Research Group, Dr. Eri Hashino leads research focusing on regenerating sensory hair cells in the inner ear. She is interested in studying pathophysiology of congenital inner ear disorders in order to identify therapeutic targets for these conditions.

Dr. Karl Koehler is known nationally for his research leading to the invention of a culture system for growing mini inner ear organs, or organoids, from stem cells. His work now focuses on the applications of the 3D culture system in regenerative therapies for rebuilding the auditory nerve and other craniofacial tissues. For updates on Dr. Koehler’s research, visit

A surgeon-scientist specialized in otology, neurotology and skull-based surgery, Dr. Rick Nelson researches the mechanisms of hair cell degeneration in the inner ear with the goal of developing new treatments for sudden and age-related hearing loss.