Morphological correlates of functional recovery in the chicken inner ear after gentamycin treatment

J Comp Neurol. 1993 May 1;331(1):75-96. doi: 10.1002/cne.903310105.


Newly hatched chickens were allowed to survive 6, 10, 15, and 20 weeks after 10 days of gentamycin sulfate treatment. Ultrastructural studies of hair cells and nerve terminals in the auditory receptor organ, the basilar papilla, were carried out with transmission and scanning electron microscopes. Attention was paid to absolute sensory cell (hair cell) numbers, stereocilia maturity and orientation, and reinnervation within a band 100 micron wide centered 1,100 microns from the basal end of the avian cochlea. Sensory cell numbers were equivalent to those of untreated control animals within the study area in the earliest survival group. Both immature and mature appearing hair cells were identified throughout the recovery period. However, the ratio of mature to immature hair cells gradually increased to exceed 95% at 20 weeks. Stereocilia bundle reorientation also occurred throughout the study period. Orientation was often abnormal at 6 weeks, but by 20 weeks more than 95% of the regenerated hair cells were aligned within normal limits established in the control ears. Hair cell differentiation occurring at 10-15 weeks was associated with degeneration of the afferent nerve receptor complexes commonly observed in 6 week survivors. These complexes were replaced by one or two small bouton shaped efferent terminals per cell. At 20 weeks, two or three chalice shaped vesiculated terminals were observed per cell in both the gentamycin treated and control ears. On the basis of these observations normal physiological activity would be predicted at 20 weeks following gentamycin treatment, at which time sensory cell repopulation, maturation, reorientation, and innervation approximates the normal anatomical condition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Chickens
  • Cochlea / pathology
  • Ear, Inner / pathology*
  • Gentamicins / toxicity*
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / physiology*
  • Labyrinth Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Labyrinth Diseases / pathology*
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Nerve Regeneration / physiology*
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Neurons, Efferent / physiology
  • Tissue Embedding


  • Gentamicins