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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1990 Feb;87(4):1471-5.

Rapid morphological fusion of severed myelinated axons by polyethylene glycol.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, University of Texas, Austin 78712.


We are able to morphologically fuse the severed halves of an invertebrate-myelinated axon by application of polyethylene glycol (PEG) to closely apposed cut ends. Morphological fusion of the medial giant axon (MGA) of the earthworm Lumbricus terrestris is defined as axoplasmic and axolemmal continuity in serial longitudinal sections of MGAs taken through the fusion site as viewed with light or electron microscopes. Morphological continuity is also shown by the transfer of Lucifer yellow dye between apposed MGA segments fused with PEG, but not between apposed MGA segments in normal or hypotonic saline without PEG application. PEG-induced MGA fusion rates can be as high as 80-100% with an appropriate choice of PEG concentration and molecular mass, tight apposition and careful alignment of the cut ends, and treatment with hypotonic salines containing reduced calcium and increased magnesium. A variant of this technique might produce rapid repair of severed mammalian-myelinated axons.

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