By Dr. Sonja Pyott
Department of Biology and Marine Biology
University of North Carolina, Wilmington
Wilmington, NC, USA
Specimen: Cochlea and Hair Cells
This confocal microscopy image of the organ of Corti is just stunning. Judges at the Olympus Bioscapes Digital Imaging Competition thought so too, and awarded Dr. Sonja Pyott 4th prize in the contest. For an even larger, more hi-res version, go here. Winners receive Olympus microscopes and other prizes! Guess who the 1st place winner is? Yeah, its the Brainbow mouse, which I discussed in a previous post.
The image above is of the normal mammalian organ of Corti, which is the epithelium which contains the sensory cells of the ear. Those cells are hair cells, which are stained green here with (I’m guessing) fluorescent phalloidin, which tags actin in the hair cells. The inner hair cells are in the lower left, and the three rows of outer hair cells are to the upper right. Nuclei of the inner hair cells are blue, which I’m guessing is DAPI. The spindly red things are the neurons, which are synapsing on the inner hair cells’ surface. The spiky things shooting out of the top of the inner hair cells are the stereocilia (which are made of actin, so green) which project into the fluid filled space above the organ of Corti. When sound waves are picked up by the ear canal and focused into the cochlea, the basilar membrane vibrates, causing the stereocilia to bend, which depolarizes the hair cells.