Three-dimensional imaging of nociceptive intraepidermal nerve fibers in human skin biopsies.

Abstract

A punch biopsy of the skin is commonly used to quantify intraepidermal nerve fiber densities (IENFD) for the diagnosis of peripheral polyneuropathy (1,2). At present, it is common practice to collect 3 mm skin biopsies from the distal leg (DL) and the proximal thigh (PT) for the evaluation of length-dependent polyneuropathies (3). However, due to the multidirectional nature of IENFs, it is challenging to examine overlapping nerve structures through the analysis of two-dimensional (2D) imaging. Alternatively, three-dimensional (3D) imaging could provide a better solution for this dilemma. In the current report, we present methods for applying 3D imaging to study painful neuropathy (PN). In order to identify IENFs, skin samples are processed for immunofluorescent analysis of protein gene product 9.5 (PGP), a pan neuronal marker. At present, it is standard practice to diagnose small fiber neuropathies using IENFD determined by PGP immunohistochemistry using brightfield microscopy (4). In the current study, we applied double immunofluorescent analysis to identify total IENFD, using PGP, and nociceptive IENF, through the use of antibodies that recognize tropomyosin-receptor-kinase A (Trk A), the high affinity receptor for nerve growth factor (5). The advantages of co-staining IENF with PGP and Trk A antibodies benefits the study of PN by clearly staining PGP-positive, nociceptive fibers. These fluorescent signals can be quantified to determine nociceptive IENFD and morphological changes of IENF associated with PN. The fluorescent images are acquired by confocal microscopy and processed for 3D analysis. 3D-imaging provides rotational abilities to further analyze morphological changes associated with PN. Taken together, fluorescent co-staining, confocal imaging, and 3D analysis clearly benefit the study of PN.

DOI: 10.3791/50331

Cite this paper

@article{Dauch2013ThreedimensionalIO, title={Three-dimensional imaging of nociceptive intraepidermal nerve fibers in human skin biopsies.}, author={Jacqueline R. Dauch and Chelsea N Lindblad and J. Michael Hayes and S . Heinicke . J . . Kovacs . I . . Nyulaszi . L . Lentz and Hsinlin Thomas Cheng}, journal={Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE}, year={2013}, volume={74}, pages={e50331} }