Department of Defense
United States Army Medical Research and Development Command
Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs

Released: November 23, 2021

CDMRP/NIDCD Joint Workshop Explores Ex-vivo Models to Accelerate Therapies to Treat Hearing Loss

Tens of millions of Americans, including more than 1.3 million Veterans, are affected by hearing loss. On November 18, 2021, the Department of Defense (DOD) Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) and the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) co-hosted a virtual workshop to encourage the enhancement of ex vivo (outside the body) models and techniques to expedite translation of therapies for hearing loss to continue to serve the needs of this population. Scientists from around the world presented their research on the development and use of organoids (3D cell culture that represents organs outside the body) and advanced technologies, including organ-on-a-chip, for studying disease mechanisms and treatments. 

Dr. Debara Tucci, director of NIDCD began the workshop by pointing out that ex vivo models will accelerate our understanding of neurosensory cell biology and enable more rapid identification of new therapeutic interventions. “There have been many drug discovery and therapeutic pipeline meetings in recent years,” said Dr. Tucci. “Through this workshop, we hope to explore what can be done to feed those pipelines in a more accelerated, reliable, and reproducible manner.”

COL Sarah Goldman, director of CDMRP highlighted the collaboration between CDMRP and NIDCD toward the common goal of improving lives of hearing loss patients. She stated, “The important work that we do makes a difference in the lives of Service members, Veterans, and their families. This collaborative workshop reinforces the notion that we will be more effective working together and exchanging ideas than we would be working independently.”

The all-day workshop consisted of focused sessions on ear organoids, organoids of other organs, and enabling technologies all aimed at accelerating the development, validation, and clinical throughput of hearing loss therapies. Following the presentations, speakers and attendees participated in discussions on the opportunities and challenges associated with ex vivo models, and possible steps needed to fulfill the promise of these approaches. 

While the full impact of the workshop has yet to be realized, CDMRP received enthusiastic feedback from several attendees who left with an energized and optimistic outlook for the future of hearing loss therapies.

“I would like to thank all people involved at DOD and NIDCD for bringing this diverse group of people together,” said Dr. Stefan Heller, Professor of Otolaryngology at Stanford School of Medicine and a pioneer in the field of inner ear organoids. “It was good to see that we share similar challenges but that our combined body of work has already led to important breakthroughs. It remains a long path, but persistence and collaboration will pay off, and I am optimistic that this work will help patients in the future.”

Dr. Brenda Ryals, Professor Emeritus at James Madison University, and Deputy Chair of the Hearing Restoration Research Program (HRRP) Programmatic Panel at CDMRP, shared this view. “I’ve worked in hearing restoration for over 30 years and I’m excited and invigorated by these presentations and discussions. This workshop will certainly move us forward as we face the challenges of developing and translating innovative therapies for human hearing restoration,” she said.

For more information about the CDMRP, our research programs, previous awardees, as well as research highlights please visit the website at

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Last updated Thursday, May 26, 2022