SCIENTIFIC REPORTS, vol.6, 2016 (SCI-Expanded)
The mammalian cochlea has historically resisted attempts at high-resolution, non-invasive imaging due to its small size, complex three-dimensional structure, and embedded location within the temporal bone. As a result, little is known about the relationship between an individual's cochlear pathology and hearing function, and otologists must rely on physiological testing and imaging methods that offer limited resolution to obtain information about the inner ear prior to performing surgery. Micro-optical coherence tomography (mu OCT) is a non-invasive, low-coherence interferometric imaging technique capable of resolving cellular-level anatomic structures. To determine whether mu OCT is capable of resolving mammalian intracochlear anatomy, fixed guinea pig inner ears were imaged as whole temporal bones with cochlea in situ. Anatomical structures such as the tunnel of Corti, space of Nuel, modiolus, scalae, and cell groupings were visualized, in addition to individual cell types such as neuronal fibers, hair cells, and supporting cells. Visualization of these structures, via volumetrically-reconstructed image stacks and endoscopic perspective videos, represents an improvement over previous efforts using conventional OCT. These are the first mu OCT images of mammalian cochlear anatomy, and they demonstrate mu OCT's potential utility as an imaging tool in otology research.