Author(s): Gillespie MJ, Stein RB
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Abstract The atrophy of cutaneous (sural) and muscle (medial gastrocnemius) nerves proximal to a ligation were studied in cats for periods up to 9 months, using light and electron microscopy, conduction velocity measurements and computer simulations. As atrophy proceeds, nerve fibres become increasingly non-circular. Cross-sectional areas of axons and fibres (axon + myelin) were measured. The diameters of equivalent circles (having the same axon and fibre cross-sectional area) were then calculated. A linear relation was found between axon diameter and fibre diameter, but the slope decreased as atrophy continued. This indicates that the axon cross-sectional area decreases relatively more than the total fibre area. Reduction in conduction velocity correlates more closely with reduction in axon diameter than fibre (axon + myelin) diameter. The ratio of the inner (axon) perimeter to the outer (myelin) perimeter remains constant at or near the optimal value of 0.6 for conduction in all groups of fibres at all periods of atrophy. Furthermore, the thickness of the myelin remains constant for a given perimeter over the entire period of atrophy studied. This suggests that the number of turns of myelin and the length of each turn remain unchanged during peripheral nerve atrophy. A simple geometric model explains how this can occur without gaps developing between the axon and myelin or between the turns of myelin. The Frankenhaeuser-Huxley equations for conduction in myelinated nerve fibres predict changes in conduction velocity similar to those observed, if the axons atrophy without changes in myelin. The advantages of this mode of atrophy are discussed.
This article was published in Brain Res
and referenced in Anatomy & Physiology: Current Research