Cochlear Explorers – Part IV – Dieters Cells

Robert Traynor
July 1, 2014

 ce43Welcome back to the continuing Cochlear Explorer series at Hearing International. Recall that there are lots of cells and other structures named after the researchers who first described them, and these are called EponymsThis week’s Cochlear Explorer is Otto Friedrich Karl Deiters (1834-1863), a German neuroanatomist.

Deiters Cells

First, what and where are Deiters cells?  Deiters cells are considered supportive cells and, with the assistance of Hensen’s cells and the cells of Claudius, they support the outer hair cells within the cochlear structure.  Deiters cells extend from the basilar membrane to the reticular lamina and, together with pillar cells and outer hair cells, ce42structurally define the micro-architecture of the organ of Corti.   The drawing at the left depicts Deiters cells in gray. The electron microscope photos at right depict Deiters cells in the cochlea. 

Recently, Parsa, Webster and Kalinec (2012) found that the complete detachment of Deiters cells reveals an elliptical imprint on the top ce44surface of the basilar membrane consisting of a smaller central structure with a very smooth surface surrounded by a rougher area, suggesting the presence of two different anchoring junctions. These previously unidentified morphological features of Deiters cells could be critical for the mechanical response of the organ of Corti.

Otto Friedrich Karl Deiters

Born in Bonn, Germany, in 1834, Otto Deiters is probably most familiar to the scientific community through his work on the central nervous system and, in particular, the nucleus of Deiters, also called the lateral vestibular nucleus, as well as Deiters’ cells, associated with outer hair ce47cells in the cochlea of the inner ear.  His career was cut short by his untimely death (in 1863 from typhoid fever at the age of 29), and much of his work was  edited and published by Max Schultze (1825-1874), a colleague professor and microanatomist from the University of Bonn where Deiters spent most of his short but brilliant career. While Deiters ce46did not live out his promising career in neuroanatomy, he is also remembered for his microscopic research of the brain and spinal cord.  Around 1860, he provided the most comprehensive description of a nerve cell that was known to exist at the time. He identified the cells’ axon, which he called an “axis cylinder,” and its dendrites, which he referred to as protoplasmic processes. He postulated that dendrites must fuse to form a continuous network.  In 1860, his famous publication Untersuchungen Über die Lamina Spiralis Membranacea (Investigations over the lamina Spiralis membranous) appeared, containing his description of his supporting cells ce45of the hair cells. Deiters’s original drawings from the book are presented at right. Imagine the difficulty of finding anything with the tools of the time.  Check out the microscopes of the time, crude at best.  To find these structures and outline them is remarkable.

Next Week’s Cochlear Explorer is German Pathologist Arthur Boettcher.





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