Regulated Reprogramming in the Regeneration of Sensory Receptor Cells
Vision, olfaction, hearing, and balance are mediated by receptors that reside in specialized sensory epithelial organs. Age-related degeneration of the photoreceptors in the retina and the hair cells in the cochlea, caused by macular degeneration and sensorineural hearing loss, respectively, affect a growing number of individuals. Although sensory receptor cells in the mammalian retina and inner ear show only limited or no regeneration, in many nonmammalian vertebrates, these sensory epithelia show remarkable regenerative potential. We summarize the current state of knowledge of regeneration in the specialized sense organs in both nonmammalian vertebrates and mammals and discuss possible areas where new advances in regenerative medicine might provide approaches to successfully stimulate sensory receptor cell regeneration. The field of regenerative medicine is still in its infancy, but new approaches using stem cells and reprogramming suggest ways in which the potential for regeneration may be restored in individuals suffering from sensory loss.