High Resolution and Labeling Free Studying the 3D Microstructure of the Pars Tensa-Annulus Unit of Mice

Jian Ping Wu*, Xiaojie Yang, Yilin Wang, Ben Swift, Robert Adamson, Yongchang Zheng, Rongli Zhang, Wen Zhong, Fangyi Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    3 Citations (Scopus)


    Hearing loss is a serious illness affecting people’s normal life enormously. The acoustic properties of a tympanic membrane play an important role in hearing, and highly depend on its geometry, composition, microstructure and connection to the surrounding annulus. While the conical geometry of the tympanic membrane is critical to the sound propagation in the auditory system, it presents significant challenges to the study of the 3D microstructure of the tympanic membrane using traditional 2D imaging techniques. To date, most of our knowledge about the 3D microstructure and composition of tympanic membranes is built from 2D microscopic studies, which precludes an accurate understanding of the 3D microstructure, acoustic behaviors and biology of the tissue. Although the tympanic membrane has been reported to contain elastic fibers, the morphological characteristic of the elastic fibers and the spatial arrangement of the elastic fibers with the predominant collagen fibers have not been shown in images. We have developed a 3D imaging technique for the three-dimensional examination of the microstructure of the full thickness of the tympanic membranes in mice without requiring tissue dehydration and stain. We have also used this imaging technique to study the 3D arrangement of the collagen and elastic fibrillar network with the capillaries and cells in the pars tensa-annulus unit at a status close to the native. The most striking findings in the study are the discovery of the 3D form of the elastic and collagen network, and the close spatial relationships between the elastic fibers and the elongated fibroblasts in the tympanic membranes. The 3D imaging technique has enabled to show the 3D waveform contour of the collagen and elastic scaffold in the conical tympanic membrane. Given the close relationship among the acoustic properties, composition, 3D microstructure and geometry of tympanic membranes, the findings may advance the understanding of the structure—acoustic functionality of the tympanic membrane. The knowledge will also be very helpful in the development of advanced cellular therapeutic technologies and 3D printing techniques to restore damaged tympanic membranes to a status close to the native.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number720383
    JournalFrontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology
    Publication statusPublished - 8 Oct 2021


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