In situ 3D-imaging of the inner ear synapses with a cochlear implant
In recent years sensorineural hearing loss was found to affect not exclusively, nor at first, the sensory cells of the inner ear. The sensory cells' synapses and subsequent neurites are initially damaged. Auditory synaptopathies also play an important role in cochlear implant (CI) care, as they can lead to a loss of physiological hearing in patients with residual hearing. These auditory synaptopathies and in general the cascades of hearing pathologies have been in the focus of research in recent years with the aim to develop more targeted and individually tailored therapeutics. In the current study, a method to examine implanted inner ears of guinea pigs was developed to examine the synapse level. For this purpose, the cochlea is made transparent and scanned with the implant in situ using confocal laser scanning microscopy. Three different preparation methods were compared to enable both an overview image of the cochlea for assessing the CI position and images of the synapses on the same specimen. The best results were achieved by dissection of the bony capsule of the cochlea.