Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) is the most common form of hearing loss that is routinely treated with hearing aids or cochlear implants. Advances in regenerative medicine have now led to animal studies examining the possibility of restoring injured hair cells with mesenchymal stem/stromal cell (MSC) administration. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to collate the existing preclinical literature evaluating MSCs as a treatment for SNHL and quantify the effect of MSCs on functional hearing. Our protocol was published online on CAMARADES. Searches were conducted in four medical databases by two independent investigators. Twelve studies met inclusion and were evaluated for risk of bias using SYRCLE. Rodent models were commonly used (n = 8, 66%), while auditory brainstem response (ABR) and distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAE) were the most frequent measures assessing hearing loss. MSCs were derived from multiple tissue sources, including bone marrow, adipose tissue, and umbilical cord blood and the dose ranged from 4 × 103 to 1 × 107 cells. Treatment with MSCs resulted in an improvement in ABR and DPOAE (mean difference-15.22, + 9.10, respectively). Despite high heterogeneity and multiple "unclear" domains in the risk of bias, this review provides evidence that MSCs may have a beneficial effect in hearing function.
Keywords: Animal models; Mesenchymal stem cells; Meta-analysis; Preclinical; Risk of bias; Sensorineural hearing loss; Stem cells; Systematic reviews.