Electrophysiological, biochemical, and morphometric observations were made on the peripheral nerves of rats after galactose feeding. Motor nerve conduction velocity was found to be reduced. This was associated with an accumulation of galactitol in the peripheral nerves and a diminution in their myoinositol content. An increased water content and fascicular area, taken in conjunction with a probable increase in the area of the endoneurial spaces, indicated overhydration of the peripheral nerves. Morphometric observations on the myelinated fibre population in the tibial nerve showed no loss of fibres and although both the maximal and the average diameter of the myelinated fibres was slightly less than in age-matched controls, this was insufficient to explain the reduction in conduction velocity. Segmental demyelination was not detected and the relationship between myelin thickness and axon circumference was not altered. Electron microscope observations revealed no ultrastructural changes in the myelinated fibres and, in particular, no abnormalities at the nodes of Ranvier or indication of abnormal hydration of the Schwann cells. The relevance of these findings to the peripheral nerve changes in human and experimental diabetes is discussed.
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