Otopathology in the United States: History, current situation, and future perspectives

Rafael Da Costa Monsanto, Henrique Furlan Pauna, Michael M. Paparella, Sebahattin Cureoglu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human temporal bone studies have documented the pathophysiologic basis of many pathologic conditions and diseases affecting the ear, contributing to the development of specific clinical knowledge and pathology-oriented treatments. Researchers dedicated to the study of anatomy and histology of the temporal bone emanated from Europe to the United States during the first part of the 20th Century. The first otopathology laboratory was founded in the United States in 1924, at Johns Hopkins University; over time, the otopathology laboratories—considered by some authors as ‘‘gold mines’’ for studying ear diseases—became numerous and very prolific. However, today, only three of the temporal bone laboratories are still running and producing scientific knowledge to the Otology/Neurotology field: the ones at Harvard Medical School, University of Minnesota, and University of California. Molecular biologic assay techniques and new microscopy and computer equipment broadened the possibilities for temporal bone studies; however, the current funding for those laboratories are insufficient to cover the costs for processing and studying human temporal bones. The main objective of this study is to briefly describe the history, current situation, and future perspectives of the otopathology laboratories in the United States.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1210-1214
Number of pages5
JournalOtology and Neurotology
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Address correspondence and reprint requests to Rafael da Costa Monsanto, M.D., Otopathology Laboratory, Department of Otolaryngology, University of Minnesota, 2001 6th St. SE, Lions Research Building, Room 210, Minneapolis, MN 55455; E-mail: rafaelmonsanto@ hotmail.com Source of Funding: This project was funded by NIH NIDCD U24 DC011968, International Hearing Foundation, Starkey Hearing Foundation, Lions 5M International, Coordenadoria de Aperfeic¸oamento Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES), and Conselho Nacional de Desen-volvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq). Financial disclosures: None. The authors disclose no conflicts of interest.

Funding Information:
Although the Registry has solved many issues regarding the enrollment of donors, distribution of the specimens and maintenance of current collections, several otopathology Laboratories become inactive in the past decades, and two of the three remaining laboratories are in risk of closing (6,7). The reasons for the ‘‘crisis’’ (6) in otopathology are complex: they include critical shortage of trained and committed scientists dedicated to otopathology research, difficulty competing for funding, and escalating costs of the materials used in the processing of temporal bones—processing a pair of human temporal bones may cost $3.000 (7); in addition, it may take up to a year to process a single temporal bone (3–6). Thus, although there is financial support for retrieval of temporal bone specimens, the costs for maintaining the laboratories and allowing preparation of the specimens for preliminary pathologic study before a hypothesis-driven grant request is submitted to NIH are not sufficiently covered by the current available funding mechanisms (6).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, Otology & Neurotology, Inc.


  • Genomics
  • History
  • Laboratories
  • Otolaryngology
  • Otopathology
  • Pathology
  • Proteomics
  • Temporal bone

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