New Imaging Technique Provide Better View Of Nerve Damage

A new imaging technique was recently developed that would allow doctors and researchers to view the extent of nerve damage more clearly in a live patient. This will also help researchers to assess and evaluate the level of damage as well as healing of the nerve tissues more accurately. This new imaging method is further described in the September issue of Biomedical Optics Express, the open access journal of the Optical Society of America (OSA).

Researchers from the Laval University in Quebec and Harvard Medical School in Boston have jointly developed the new imaging technique by aiming lasers at the damaged sciatic nerves of rats in order to create images of the myelin sheath, the insulating component of individual neurons. Many factors such as physical trauma, bacterial infections, multiple sclerosis and other similar neurodegenerative disorders can cause neurons to lose myelin. This can lead to a substantial lack of insulation that can affect the nerve transmission of signals and lead to a number of symptoms such as pain, poor muscle control and numbness, among other things.

By using the images of neurons, the researchers then measured the thickness of the myelin located in different areas as well as at times after the rats’ sciatic nerves were damaged. Two weeks after the nerve damage, the myelin covering was seen to have thinned considerably. Four weeks after, the nerves were seen to begun healing.

Previously, researchers were only able to measure myelin by removing the nerve and then slicing it into thin layers. This procedure may not be applicable for measuring myelin on living patients due to its destructive nature. The new imaging technique shows some promise as a means for doctors to more accurately measure myelin using a safer process as well as to treat nerve damage and neurodegenerative diseases in the near future.

Source: Optical Society of America (2011, September 14). New imaging technique evaluates nerve damage. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 28, 2011, from

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