High-resolution X-ray tomography of the human inner ear: synchrotron radiation-based study of nerve fibre bundles, membranes and ganglion cells


Prof. Dr. Bert Müller. Tel: +41 61 265 9660; Fax: +41 61 265 9699; e-mail: bert.mueller@unibas.ch


The combination of osmium tetroxide staining and high-resolution tomographic imaging using monochromatic X rays allows visualizing cellular structures of the human inner ear, that is, the organ of Corti, the stria vascularis and further soft tissues of the membranous labyrinth, in three-dimensional space with isotropic micrometre resolution. This approach permits to follow the course of nerve fibre bundles in a major part of the specimen and reveals the detailed three-dimensional arrangement of individual ganglion cells with distinct nuclei by means of X-ray tomography for the first time. The non-destructive neuron cell counting in a selected volume of 125 μm × 800 μm × 600 μm = 0.06 mm3 gives rise to the estimate that 2000 ganglion cells are present along 1 mm organ of Corti.