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Peripheral Nerve Abnormalities in Aging Rats

N. Grover-Johnson, Peter S. Spencer
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/00005072-198103000-00007 155-165 First published online: 1 March 1981


The sciatic/tibial/plantar nerve complex of normal aged rats displays striking morphological changes that are most pronounced distally. Nerve fiber abnormalities include: (a) large numbers of axonal glycogenosomes, mitochondria, dense membranous bodies, and decorated particles; (b) adaxonal Schwann cell processes sequestering portions of axoplasm; (c) swollen demyelinated and remyelinated axons, some encircled by supernumerary cellular processes; and (d) collagen pockets, denervated Schwann cell columns, and empty basal laminae. Abnormalities a and b were encountered with increasing frequency on descent through the tibial and plantar nerves. Abnormalities b, c, and d were found in lateral and medial plantar nerves, where they were associated with an enlarged endoneurial space. Found in animals kept in cages with smooth or wire-mesh floors, the incidence of these changes increased with advancing age. They are attributed to trauma and ischemia from chronic pressure on the plantar nerve.