From Embryology

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Human Semicircular Canal and Duct

Transverse section of a human semicircular canal and duct (after Rüdinger).


The walls of the utricle, saccule, and semicircular ducts consist of three layers.

  1. The outer layer is a loose and flocculent structure, apparently composed of ordinary fibrous tissue containing bloodvessels and some pigment-cells.
  2. The middle layer, thicker and more transparent, forms a homogeneous membrana propria, and presents on its internal surface, especially in the semicircular ducts, numerous papilliform projections, which, on the addition of acetic acid, exhibit an appearance of longitudinal fibrillation.
  3. The inner layer is formed of polygonal nucleated epithelial cells.

In the maculæ of the utricle and saccule, and in the transverse septa of the ampullæ of the semicircular ducts, the middle coat is thickened and the epithelium is columnar, and consists of supporting cells and hair cells. The former are fusiform, and their deep ends are attached to the membrana propria, while their free extremities are united to form a thin cuticle.

The hair cells are flask-shaped, and their deep, rounded ends do not reach the membrana propria, but lie between the supporting cells. The deep part of each contains a large nucleus, while its more superficial part is granular and pigmented. The free end is surmounted by a long, tapering, hair-like filament, which projects into the cavity. The filaments of the acoustic nerve enter these parts, and having pierced the outer and middle layers, they lose their medullary sheaths, and their axis-cylinders ramify between the hair cells.

(Text modified from Gray's 1918 Anatomy)

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Gray H. Anatomy of the human body. (1918) Philadelphia: Lea & Febiger.

Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2024, June 23) Embryology Gray0927.jpg. Retrieved from

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current07:46, 19 August 2012Thumbnail for version as of 07:46, 19 August 2012542 × 500 (82 KB)Z8600021 (talk | contribs)Transverse section of a human semicircular canal and duct (after Rüdinger).

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