Welcome back to the continuing Cochlear Explorer series at Hearing International. Recall that there are many cells and other structures named after the researchers who first described them, and these names are called Eponyms. This week’s Cochlear Explorer is Jakob Ernst Arthur Böttcher (1831 – 1889), a German pathologist and anatomist.
Boettcher’s (Böttcher’s) Cells
Boettcher’s cells lie on the basilar membrane beneath Claudius’s cells (see drawing to the left and electron micrograph to the right). The cells are considered supporting cells for the organ of Corti, and present only in the lower turn of the cochlea, which responds to high-frequency sound perception. Boettcher’s cells interdigitate with each other, and project microvilli into the intercellular space. Their structural specialization suggests that they may play a significant role in the function of the cochlea. Nitric oxide synthase (NOS) has previously been detected in substructures of the cochlea. In the cochlea, it is believed this nitric oxide plays an important role in neurotransmission, blood flow regulation, and induction of cytotoxicity under pathological conditions. Findings concerning detection of NOS on Boettcher’s cells are rare. Kanazawa et al (2004) demonstrated the localization of NOS on Boettcher cells of the rat by immunohistochemistry using polyclonal antibody to NOS. On observation with the light microscope using DAB staining, positive immunostaining to NOS was observed in the Boettcher cells. In immunoelectron micrographs, NOS was detected abundantly in the cytoplasm of the interdigitations. This could suggest that the interdigitations may play significant roles by using NOS. It follows from this observation that the nitric oxide (NO) on Boettcher cells could influence neighboring Boettcher cells. The ultrastructure of Boettcher cells suggests that they may be active cells, which perform both secretory and absorptive functions.
Jakob Ernst Arthur Boettcher (Böttcher)
of Bauska, in what was then the Courland Governorate (present-day Latvia). In the literature, audiologists see his name spelled as Bottcher or Boettcher, which is not an Anglicization of his name but a common variant of German spelling. Since the spelling differentiation did not matter much at the time, Schacht and Hawkins, (2004) suggest that they should not matter to us now.
Boettcher began his studies in 1851 at the University of Dorpat (present-day University of Tartu in Estonia) and received his doctorate in 1856 with a dissertation on the nerve supply to the inner ear‘s cochlea  (English translations for this paper are not very accurate online, but it is something like “Microscopic Observations of the cochlear nerve in mammals”). For a few years, he furthered his studies with journeys to Germany, France and Austria, and in 1862 he became a full professor of general pathology and pathological anatomy at Dorpat. From 1871 to 1877 he was editor of the magazine Dorpater Medicinische Zeitschrift (Dorpater Medical Journal), later called the St. Petersburg. Medicinische Zeitschrift (St. Petersburg Medical Journal).
As with his contemporaries, he felt compelled to reiterate and document his observations in a journal article [Boettcher,1859]. In this 1859 article, Boettcher primarily addresses several points of contention in contemporary 19th century cochlear anatomy, for example, the question of whether Corti’s cells (hair cells) are continuations of the nerve fibers or independent structures akin to the Pacinian corpuscles. But he also challenges his colleague at Dorpat, Ernst Reissner (1824 –1878) (another Cochlear Explorer who will be presented later in this series), by stating that he looked for the ‘Schneckenkanal’ (screw channel) and the membrane that Reissner had described, and pointedly declared that he (Boettcher) did not see it. Boettcher is largely known for his anatomical investigations of the inner ear, particularly studies involving the structure of the reticular lamina and nerve fibers of the organ of Corti. Today his name is associated with the eponym “Boettcher cell” of the basilar membrane within the cochlea. Other anatomical terms that contain his name are:
- Boettcher’s canal, which is known today as the ductus utriculosaccularis or as the utriculo–saccular duct connecting the utricle with the endolymphatic duct.
- Boettcher’s ganglion: Ganglion on the cochlear nerve in the internal auditory meatus.
- Boettcher’s space: Also known as the endolymphatic sac; the blind pouch at the end of the endolymphatic duct.
- Charcot-Boettcher filaments: Spindle-shaped crystalloids found in human Sertoli cells. They measure 10 to 25 µm in length. Named in conjunction with neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot (1825-1893).
Boettcher received the prestigious Karl von Baer Prize of the St Petersburg Academy of Sciences (the forerunner of the Russian Academy of Sciences) for his work on the structure of the labyrinth within the ear. He quit working in approximately 1877 at about age 45 as he became ill. After 12 years of illness, he died at the age of 57 in August 1889.
Next Week watch Hearing International for another Cochlear Explorer, Friedrich-Christian Rosenthal