The Human Spiral Ganglion
Sammanfattning: Our knowledge of the fine structure of the Human Spiral Ganglion (HSG) is still inadequate and new treatment techniques for deafness using electric stimulation, call for further information and studies on the neuronal elements of the human cochlea. This thesis presents results of analyses of human cochlear tissue and specimens obtained during neurosurgical transpetrosal removal of life-threatening meningeomas. The use of surgical biopsies produced a well-preserved material suitable for ultrastructural and immunohistochemical studies on the human inner ear. The SG was studied with respect to fine structure, using TEM technique and the immunostaining pattern of synaptophysin, which is an integral membrane protein of neuronal synaptic vesicles. The immunostaining patterns of the tight junctional protein ZO-1 and the gap junctional proteins Cx26 and Cx43 in the human cochlea were also studied. The ultrastructural morphology revealed an absence of myelination pattern in the HSG, thus differing from that in other species. Furthermore, formation of structural units as well as signs of neural interaction between the type 1 neurons could be observed. Type 1 cells were tightly packed in clusters, sharing the ensheathment of Schwann cells. The cells frequently made direct physical contact in Schwann cell gaps in which membrane specializations appeared. These specializations consisted of symmetrically or asymmetrically distributed filamentous densities along the apposed cell membranes. The same structures were also present between individual unmyelinated nerve fibres and the type 1 cells. Synapses were observed on the type 2 neurons, with nerve fibres originating from the intraganglionic spiral bundle. Such synapses, though rare, were also observed on the type 1 cells. The ultrastructural findings were confirmed by the synaptophysin study. A 3-D model of a Schwann cell gap between two type 1 cells was constructed, describing the distribution pattern of membrane specializations. In the immunohistochemical studies on the human cochlea, ZO-1 was expressed in tissues lining scala media, thus contributing to the formation of a closed compartment system, important for the maintenance of the specific ionic composition of the endolymph. Protein Cx26 could be identified in non-sensory epithelial cells of the organ of Corti, in connective tissue cells of the spiral ligament and spiral limbus, as well as in the basal and intermediate cell layers of stria vascularis. Cx26 in this region may be involved in the recycling of potassium. Protein Cx43 stained weakly in the spiral ligament, but intense staining in the SG may indicate that gap junctions exist between these neurons. A different functional role for the HSG can be assumed from the morphological characteristics and the signs of a neural interaction between the SG cells. This might be relevant for neural processing mechanisms in speech coding and could have implications for cochlear implant techniques.
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