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J Peripher Nerv Syst. 2005 Jun;10(2):202-8.

Intraepidermal nerve fiber density in rat foot pad: neuropathologic-neurophysiologic correlation.

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  • 1Immunology and Muscular Pathology Unit, National Neurological Institute Carlo Besta, Via Celoria 11, 20133 Milan, Italy.


Quantification of cutaneous innervation in rat footpad is a useful tool to investigate sensory small-diameter nerve fibers, which are affected early in peripheral neuropathies. The aim of this work was to provide normative reference data on the density of intraepidermal nerve fibers (IENFs) and Langerhans cells in the hindpaw footpad of Sprague-Dawley and Wistar rats. We also evaluated the sensibility of IENF density by comparing neuropathologic findings with neurophysiologic examination and the presence of peripheral neuropathy in two well-characterized animal models of neuropathy. IENF density was quantified in 22 Sprague-Dawley rats and 13 Wistar rats and compared with 19 age-matched Sprague-Dawley rats with streptozotocin-induced diabetic neuropathy and 30 age-matched Wistar rats with cisplatin- or paclitaxel-induced neuropathy. Antidromic tail sensory nerve conduction velocity (SNCV) was assessed in all animals. IENF and Langerhans cell densities were constant in healthy Sprague-Dawley rats at any age, and they were similar to those observed in healthy Wistar rats. In neuropathic rats, both SNCV and IENF density were significantly reduced with respect to controls. Quantification of IENF density was significantly correlated with changes in conduction velocity. Diabetic neuropathy rats alone showed a significantly higher density of Langerhans cells compared with controls. Our study demonstrated that IENF density quantification correlates with SNCV changes and suggests that this might represent a useful outcome measurement in experimental neuropathies.

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