Autophagy in the posterior interosseous nerve of patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus: an ultrastructural study

Ayman A. M. Osman, Lars Dahlin, Niels Thomsen, Simin Mohseni

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We addressed the question of whether the autophagy pathway occurs in human peripheral nerves and whether this pathway is associated with peripheral neuropathy in diabetes mellitus. By using electron microscopy, we evaluated the presence of autophagy-related structures and neuropathy in the posterior interosseous nerve of patients who had undergone carpal tunnel release and had type 1 or type 2 diabetes mellitus, and in patients with no diabetes (controls). Autophagy-related ultrastructures were observed in the samples taken from all patients of the three groups. The number of autophagy-associated structures was significantly higher (p < 0.05) in the nerves of patients with type 1 than type 2 diabetes. Qualitative and quantitative evaluations of fascicle area, diameter of myelinated and unmyelinated nerve fibres, the density of myelinated and unmyelinated fibres and the g-ratio of myelinated fibres were performed. We found degeneration and regeneration of a few myelinated axons in controls, and a well-developed neuropathy with the loss of large myelinated axons and the presence of many small ones in patients with diabetes. The pathology in type 1 diabetes was more extensive than in type 2 diabetes. The results of this study show that the human peripheral nerves have access to the autophagy machinery, and this pathway may be regulated differently in type 1 and type 2 diabetes; insulin, presence of extensive neuropathy, and/or other factors such as duration of diabetes and HbA(1c) level may underlie this differential regulation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)625-632
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Endocrinology and Diabetes


  • Autophagy
  • Diabetes
  • Electron microscopy
  • Human
  • Neuropathy
  • Peripheral
  • nerve


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