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Sci Rep. 2014 Dec 2;4:7286. doi: 10.1038/srep07286.

Unravelling crucial biomechanical resilience of myelinated peripheral nerve fibres provided by the Schwann cell basal lamina and PMP22.

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Institute of Physiology II, WWU Münster, Robert-Koch-Straße 27b 48149 Münster, Germany.
Department of Sleep Medicine and Neuromuscular Disorders, Albert-Schweitzer Campus 1, Geb. A1, 48149 Münster, Germany.
Department of Proteins and Nucleic Acids, Instituto de Investigaciones Biológicas Clemente Estable, Montevideo, Uruguay.


There is an urgent need for the research of the close and enigmatic relationship between nerve biomechanics and the development of neuropathies. Here we present a research strategy based on the application atomic force and confocal microscopy for simultaneous nerve biomechanics and integrity investigations. Using wild-type and hereditary neuropathy mouse models, we reveal surprising mechanical protection of peripheral nerves. Myelinated peripheral wild-type fibres promptly and fully recover from acute enormous local mechanical compression while maintaining functional and structural integrity. The basal lamina which enwraps each myelinated fibre separately is identified as the major contributor to the striking fibre's resilience and integrity. In contrast, neuropathic fibres lacking the peripheral myelin protein 22 (PMP22), which is closely connected with several hereditary human neuropathies, fail to recover from light compression. Interestingly, the structural arrangement of the basal lamina of Pmp22(-/-) fibres is significantly altered compared to wild-type fibres. In conclusion, the basal lamina and PMP22 act in concert to contribute to a resilience and integrity of peripheral nerves at the single fibre level. Our findings and the presented technology set the stage for a comprehensive research of the links between nerve biomechanics and neuropathies.

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