Middle ear structure in relation to function the rat in middle ear research

University dissertation from Umeå : Umeå universitet

Abstract: The present study was undertaken to evaluate the rat as a model for middle ear re­search. The rat was chosen primarily because the gross structure of its middle ear shows several similarities to that of man. It was considered of great importance to make a thorough structural study of the rat middle ear and to compare the results with those reported for the human middle ear. The thesis therefore includes indepen­dent studies on various aspects of rat middle ear structure and function as well as a review of the literature. The most pertinent findings in the experimental part of this study were the following.The rat Eustachian tube consists of a nasopharyngeal, and a cartilaginous and bony portion. The orifice of the nasopharyngeal portion is composed of two soft tissue lips, which appear to be opened mainly by the action of the salpingopharyngeal mus­cle, but also by the levator and tensor veli palatini muscles. The cartilaginous por­tion appears to be opened solely by the tensor veli palatini muscle. The tensor tympani muscle seems to have no effect on the tube.A ciliated and secretory epithelium lines the inferomedial walls of the tube throughout its length. In the tympanic cavity these thelial cell types extend as two tracts - one anterior and the other inferoposterior to  the promontory - which communicate with the epitympanic/attic compartments. The remaining parts of the tube and the tympanic cavity are covered by a squamous/cuboidal, non-ciliated epithelium. The subepithelial loose connective tissue contains vessels, nerves, and connective tissue cells, among these mast cells. The mast cells are confined to areas covered by the ciliated epithelium, and in the floor of the bulla, in the pars flaccida, and along the manubrial vessels. Glands are restricted to the Eustachian tube.In the clearance/transport of serum-like material, from the epitympanum towards the tube, hydrostatic forces appear to be important.The tympanic membrane is vascularized from meatal and tympanal vessels. Meatal ves­sels branch in the pars flaccida and along the handle of the malleus, where they are localized directly beneath the outer, keratinizing, stratified, squamous epithelium. Furthermore, meatal vessels form a vascular network at the junction between the fi­brocartilaginous annulus and the tympanic sulcus. Tympanal vessels send branches to the periphery of the pars tensa, where they run immediately beneath the tympanal, simple, squamous epithelium. In the major portion of the pars tensa, no blood vessels were found.The rat stapedial artery is a thin-walled vessel with a wide lumen. Without branch­ing, it runs through the tympanic cavity to the extratympanal regions it supplies. In contrast to the corresponding artery in man, the rat stapedial artery persists throughout life. The artery does not seem to be affected by the fluid produced during experimentally induced otitis media with effusion.The middle ear structure in the rat and in man show both similarities and differ­ences. If the differences are kept in mind and considered, it would seem that the rat is indeed a suitable model for experimental middle ear research.