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open access eISSN 2093-3673

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Original Article

Anat Cell Biol 2023; 56(3): 374-381

Published online September 30, 2023


Copyright © Korean Association of ANATOMISTS.

Histological observations of age-related changes in the epiglottis associated with decreased deglutition function in older adults

Masamitsu Serikawa , Kimiharu Ambe , Akinobu Usami

Department of Morphological Biology, Ohu University School of Dentistry, Koriyama, Japan

Correspondence to:Masamitsu Serikawa
Department of Morphological Biology, Ohu University School of Dentistry, Koriyama 963-8611, Japan
E-mail: m-serikawa@den.ohu-u.ac.jp

Received: March 22, 2023; Revised: April 10, 2023; Accepted: April 14, 2023

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Although the epiglottis plays a vital role in deglutition, histological studies of the epiglottis and surrounding ligaments associated with swallowing dysfunction are limited. Therefore, we performed histological observations to clarify age-related changes in the morphological characteristics of the epiglottis and surrounding structures. Tissue samples comprising the epiglottis and surrounding structures were collected from corpses that were both orally fed and tube-fed during their lifetimes. Following hematoxylin and eosin, Elastica Van Gieson, and immunohistochemical staining procedures, the chondrocytes, connective tissue, and glandular tissue were observed under the epiglottis epithelium, and intervening adipose tissue was observed in the surrounding area. Fatty degeneration of acinar cells was also observed in the glandular tissue, possibly because of aging. Bundles of elastic fibers were present around the vascular wall in the peri-epiglottic ligament, but some were reduced. Furthermore, large amounts of collagen fibers ran toward and through the cartilage, whereas the mesh-like elastic fibers stopped in front of the cartilage. Microfibrils considered to be oxytalan fibers, which are thinner and shorter than elastic fibers, were observed around the vascular wall and in the fiber bundles. Age-related changes included connective tissue fibrosis shown by the large amount of collagen fibers, atrophy of salivary glands, and an accompanying increase in adipose tissue. Regarding stretchability and elasticity, the elastic fibers may have an auxiliary function for laryngeal elevation during deglutition. This suggests that disuse atrophy of the laryngeal organs with or without oral intake might reduce the amount of elastic fiber in older adults.

Keywords: Older adults, Epiglottis, Oxytalan fiber, Oral intake, Muscular disorders, atrophic

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