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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Understanding the mechanisms of entrapment neuropathies

  • Author(s): Pham, Khoa
  • Gupta, Ranjan
  • et al.

Compression neuropathies are highly prevalent, debilitating conditions with variable functional recovery following surgical decompression. Due to the limited amount of human nerve tissue available for analysis, a number of animal models have been created to help investigators understand the molecular and cellular pathogenesis of chronic nerve compression (CNC) injury. Evidence suggests that CNC injury induces concurrent Schwann cell proliferation and apoptosis in the early stages of the disorder. These proliferating Schwann cells downregulate myelin proteins, leading to local demyelination and remyelination in the region of injury. In addition, the downregulation of myelin proteins, in particular myelin-associated glycoprotein, allows for axonal sprouting. Interestingly, these changes occur in the absence of both morphological and electrophysiological evidence of axonal damage. This is in direct contrast to acute injuries, such as transection or crush, which are characterized by axonal injury followed by Wallerian degeneration. Because the accepted trigger for Schwann cell dedifferentiation is axonal injury, an alternate mechanism for Schwann response must exist in CNC injury. In vitro studies of pure Schwann cells have shown that these cells can respond directly to mechanical stimuli by downregulating myelin proteins and proliferating. These studies suggest that although the reciprocal relationship between neurons and glial cells is maintained, chronic nerve compression injury is a Schwann cell-mediated disease. (DOI: 10.3171/FOC.2009.26.2.E7)

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