Paper - The Development of the Scala Tympani, Scala Vestibuli and Perioticular Cistern in the Human Embryo

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Streeter G.L. The Development of the Scala Tympani, Scala Vestibuli and Perioticular Cistern in the Human Embryo

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The Development of the Scala Tympani, Scala Vestibuli and Perioticular Cistern in the Human Embryo

George L. Streeter

Department of Embryology, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Johns Hopokins Medical School, Baltimore, Maryland

Nine Figures


The study of the development of the large walled—off connective tissue spaces that surround the membranous labyrinth is particularly interesting in that it shows that they have a very definite morphological individuality. It is evident at least that they are not to be considered as insignificant accessories that merely fill in the waste intervals between the membranous labyrinth and the surrounding cartilage or bone. On the contrary, they have characteristics which are in many respects as definite and constant as ‘those of the ossicles themselves. The individuality of these spaces in all respects is most marked. They make their appearance at a definite stage in the development of the embryo; they are formed at definite places; they pass through a series of definite histogenetic processes; they spread in a definite order and manner and eventually they attain a definite form and structure. The general morphology and relations of these‘ spaces during their developmental period will be described in the following paper, and the opportunity will be taken to point out in the course of the description some of these individualistic features.


Instead of designating the large spaces surrounding the membranous labyrinth as perilymphatic spaces, as has been the general custom since the time of Breschet 1833, they will here be spoken of as perioticular or periotic spaces. The use of the term ‘periotic’ avoids the confusion arising from the incorporation of the Word ‘lymphatic’ in the terminology. The present tendency is to restrict the use of the word ‘lymphatic’ to the lymphatic vascular system and its associated structures, with which these particular spaces have no known connection, either in their origin or in their ultimate relations.1 We shall therefore speak of a periotic connective tissue that everywhere surrounds the epithelial portion of the labyrinth. This connective tissue includes, in part the fine-meshed periotic reticulum, and in part the large walled-off perioticular spaces to which belong the vestibular cistern, the scala Vestibuli and the scala tympani with whose development we are primarily concerned. V

Material and Methods

The observations that are recorded in this paper are all based on human embryos and cover the period included between embryos 35 mm. and 130 mm. CR length, which is approximately equivalent to the period between the ninth and sixteenth week of fetal life.

To facilitate the determination of the form and relations of the spaces, wax-plate models of the membranous labyrinth and the surrounding spaces were reconstructed after -the Born method. Advantage was taken of the improvements in the method recently devised by Lewis 1915.9 The serial sections were photographed at a suitable enlargement on bromide paper. By means of a preliminary model of the membranous labyrinth, the necessary reconstruction lines were established and inscribed on the bromide prints. From these prints then the membranous labyrinth and the perioticular spaces were traced on waxplates. After cutting out from the plates the areas corresponding to these structures, the plates were piled and the resultant cavities were filled with plaster of Paris. The wax was finally melted off and there was left then a permanent plaster cast of the objects desired at a definite enlargement. Views of these models are shown in figures 4 to 9.


‘Sabin, F. R. Harvey Society Address. Science, vol. 44, 1916, p. 145. 9 Lewis, W. H. The use of guide planes and plaster of Paris for reconstructions from serial sections. Anat. Rec., vol. 9, 1915.


In outlining the periotic spaces it was found necessary to make an arbitrary rule as to how much should be included in the model. The smaller spaces of the reticulum that surrounds the ‘main cavities can be seen coalescing to form larger spaces and these in turn coalesce with the main cavity as it advances into new territory. Thus in a given section there is a considerable range in the size and completeness of the spaces. The main spaces and the larger adjacent ones that communicate with them are outlined by a membrane—like border. This characteristic was utilized as the guide for determining which spaces to admit into the model; only those possessing a more or less complete border of this kind were included.

Histogenesis of the Periotic Reticulum

Although this communication is more concerned with the process of conversion of the periotic reticular tissue into the larger walled—off spaces, yet for the purpose of completeness a brief survey will be taken of the earlier history of this tissue and the nature of its histogenesis.


The tissue in which the perioticular spaces develop is derived from the condensed mesenchyme that establishes itself as an encapsulating mass around the otic vesicle in embryos between 4 mm. and 10 mm. long. This condensed mesenchyme is subsequently differentiated into the cartilagenous capsule that completely invests the epithelial labyrinth excepting for the three openings that persist in the adult as the internal auditory meatus, the aqueaductus cochleae and the aquaeductus vestibuli, which openings are present in the very earliest stages.


Originally the cartilagenous capsule abuts directly against the epithelial wall of the labyrinth. In embryos about 14 mm. long, however, the cartilage-forming tissue in the immediate neighborhood of the epithelium undergoes a dedifferentiation, so that an area is established all around the membranous labyrinth, and conforming to it in shape, that is less like cartilage and more like embryonic connective tissue. It is this that constitutes the foundation for the open—meshed periotic reticulum which in embryos 30 mm. long everywhere bridges the space existing between the membranous labyrinth and the surrounding




Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2021, June 23) Embryology Paper - The Development of the Scala Tympani, Scala Vestibuli and Perioticular Cistern in the Human Embryo. Retrieved from https://embryology.med.unsw.edu.au/embryology/index.php/Paper_-_The_Development_of_the_Scala_Tympani,_Scala_Vestibuli_and_Perioticular_Cistern_in_the_Human_Embryo

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