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Quantification of myelinated endings and mechanoreceptors in human digital skin

updated

Tags: biology, neat, neurology

One article on PainSci cites Nolano 2003: Does Massage Therapy Work?

PainSci summary of Nolano 2003: ?This page is one of thousands in the PainScience.com bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided at the bottom of the page, as often as possible.

This geeky basic neurology experiment produced a rough estimate of the density of nerve endings in human glabrous (hairless) skin: about 6000 per square centimetre, so a whole hand probably contains about as many as the maximum capacity of the largest stadiums in the world. They measured an average nerve diametre of about 3 thousandths of a millimetre.

~ Paul Ingraham

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

We used immunohistochemistry and confocal microscopy applied to fingertip punch biopsy to study glabrous skin innervation in 14 healthy subjects. In addition to epidermal nerve fibers, we quantified mechanoreceptors and their myelinated afferents. Using digital images and dedicated software, we calculated caliber, internodal and nodal length, and G-ratio of the last four internodes of the myelinated endings. In our skin samples, we found a mean density of 59.0 +/- 29.3 myelinated endings per square millimeter with a mean diameter of 3.3 +/- 0.5 microm and an internodal length of 79.1 +/- 13.8 microm. These findings indicate that Abeta fibers undergo drastic changes in their course from the nerve trunk to the target organ, with repeated branching and consequent tapering and shortening of internodal length. Our work demonstrates that skin biopsy can give information on the status of large myelinated endings as well as unmyelinated sensory and autonomic nerves. Since distal endings are primarily involved in distal axonopathy, skin biopsy can be more suitable than sural nerve biopsy to detect early abnormalities. In addition to diagnostic applications, this technique allows clarification of the mode of termination of Abeta fibers and their relationship with mechanoreceptors, leading to relevant electrophysiological speculations.

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