Hypothesis: This study aimed to determine whether hair cells with immature hair bundles exist in the normal utricular maculae of mature guinea pigs.
Background: A low rate of hair cell “turnover” occurs in the vestibular organs of normal adult birds. Small, immature-appearing hair cells have been identified in the utricles of juvenile guinea pigs, but their existence in the vestibular system of mature mammals has not been confirmed.
Methods: Nine utricles from 14− to 16-week-old guinea pigs were processed for scanning electron microscopy. A systematic search for small hair bundles was made. These bundles were classified as either “newborn-like” or “intermediate” depending on specific characteristics of the apical cell surface, the stereocilia, and the kinocilium.
Results: A mean of 7 newborn-like and 41 intermediate hair bundles per utricle were identified. The average hair cell count for the guinea pig utricular macula was 7,200; thus, these small hair bundles comprise 0.7% of the total.
Conclusions: The small hair bundles are interpreted as developing vestibular hair cells, produced to replace hair cells lost to normal processes. This is thought to represent a biologic phenomenon that is in some ways similar, but in other ways distinct, from hair cell regeneration after trauma.
© 1997, The American Journal of Otology, Inc.