Cochlear Explorers – Part II – Cells of Claudius

Robert Traynor
June 17, 2014

ce21It was fitting that this series began last week with Alfonso Corti, since most of the Cochlear Explorers in this series are named for components of his famous Organ of Corti.

According to Eygleshymer (1917), anatomic terminology began when primitive man first assigned names to parts of the human body. These terms have increased in number until the science of anatomy is in danger of being submerged by its own terminology. Over 50,000 names have been given to some 5,000 structures.

If the problem was noted in 1917, imagine what it is today.  There are lots of cells and other structures named after the researchers who first described them, and these are called Eponyms. While we could assume it would be a 19th century career benefit to have structures named after you, according to Schacht and Hawkins (2004), the forefathers of the profession, anatomists who first described components of the cochlea did not use this to claim fame and immortality for themselves. Rather, these eponyms came about by accident and developed slowly. 

In the 19th century it was common to describe anatomical structures by the discoverer’s first name, such as “the cells that Claudius described.” To them, this was a convenient method to ce23describe structures, as the original authors often did not understand the role of the cells they were describing nor their precise structure and, therefore, they could not propose precise anatomical names. Additionally, naming the cells when a more precise assessment of their structure and function probably made the cochlear anatomy less confusing.

This week’s Cochlear Explorer is Friedrich Matthias Claudius (June 1, 1822 – January 10, 1869). In an 1855 paper, Bemerkungen uber den Bau der hautigen Spiralleiste der Schnecke (crude translation: Remarks above the construction of the hautigen spiral strip of the snail) in a German Zoology journal, Friedrich Claudius described what were to become known as the “Cells of Claudius”.  

In the upper drawing of the cochlea, the Cells of ce24Claudius are located on the far right side.  In this drawing that shows the various eponymous structures of the cochlea, they are located on the left. The Cells of Claudius are cuboidal supporting cells within the Organ of Corti in the Cochlea These cells extend from Hensen’s cells to the spiral prominence epithelium, forming the Outer Sulcus.  They are in direct contact with the endolymph of the scala media. These cells are sealed via tight junctions that prevent flow of endolymph between them. Boettcher cells are located directly under the cells of Claudius in the lower turn of the cochlea.  

There is not a lot of information on this cochlear explorer. He was born in Lubeck, Germany in 1822, about the same time as Corti’s birth in Italy.  Growing up in the ce22old part of Lubeck, young Friedrich lived near the river Trave, which was connected to the Elbe River by the Elbe Lubeck Canal.  Lubeck lies on the Baltic coast, not far from Hamburg.  While Friedrich was related to the famous 18th century German poet, Matthias Claudius (1740-1815) shown above, no pictures of him have survived of him.  We do know that Friedrich earned his doctorate in Zoology from the University of Gottingen in 1844.  In 1849 he was appointed to the Zoological Museum of Keil University and later became professor and director of the anatomical institute at the University of Marburg.  Not much else is known about the person who first described the Cells of Claudius.

Next week a look at another Cochlear Explorer……Henson’s Cells
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  1. Please continue this. I am sure it will be of benefit to thousands. Medicine on a whole is packed with Eponyms. One hears of the ganglion cells of Gasser, ligament of Poupart, foramen of Vesalius, ligament of Sir Astley Paston Cooper, Copula of His, Criminal Nerve of Grassi. Maybe you will come across something on Grassi. I have actually searched for information on Grassi but have come up empty handed. Blessings on you!

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