Human inner ear blood supply revisited: the Uppsala collection of temporal bone—an international resource of education and collaboration
Background: The Uppsala collection of human temporal bones and molds is a unique resource for education and international research collaboration. Micro-computerized tomography (micro-CT) and synchrotron imaging are used to investigate the complex anatomy of the inner ear. Impaired microcirculation is etiologically linked to various inner ear disorders, and recent developments in inner ear surgery promote examination of the vascular system. Here, for the first time, we present three-dimensional (3D) data from investigations of the major vascular pathways and corresponding bone channels.
Methods: We used the archival Uppsala collection of temporal bones and molds consisting of 324 inner ear casts and 113 macerated temporal bones. Micro-CT was used to investigate vascular bone channels, and 26 fresh human temporal bones underwent synchrotron radiation phase contrast imaging (SR-PCI). Data were processed by volume-rendering software to create 3D reconstructions allowing orthogonal sectioning, cropping, and soft tissue analyses.
Results: Micro-CT with 3D rendering was superior in reproducing the anatomy of the vascular bone channels, while SR-PCI replicated soft tissues. Arterial bone channels were traced from scala vestibuli (SV) arterioles to the fundus, cochlea, and vestibular apparatus. Drainage routes along the aqueducts were examined.
Conclusion: Human inner ear vessels are difficult to study due to the adjoining hard bone. Micro-CT and SR-PCI with 3D reconstructions revealed large portions of the micro-vascular system in un-decalcified specimens. The results increase our understanding of the organization of the vascular system in humans and how altered microcirculation may relate to inner ear disorders. The findings may also have surgical implications.
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