Refined quantitation of sweat gland innervation

Karla Minota, Ann M. Schmeichel, Jade A. Gehrking, Jay N. Mandrekar, Phillip A. Low, Wolfgang Singer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Skin biopsies have gained increasing popularity as a tool to evaluate disorders affecting small nerve fibers. While reports on sweat gland nerve fiber density (SGNFD) to quantitate sudomotor innervation have been promising, methodologies vary significantly. Although conventional stereology is commonly used, no standard technique has been established. We sought to develop an accurate and reproducible technique to quantify SGNFD. Skin punch biopsies from healthy individuals were cut and stained. Images of sweat glands (SGs) were acquired using confocal and widefield microscopes, and optimized using deconvolution. Nerve fibers were reconstructed and nerve fiber length (NFL) was quantified using three-dimensional (3D) automated software. SGNFD was obtained by dividing NFL by SG volume. SGNFD was also assessed using stereology for comparison. Ninety-two SGs from 10 healthy subjects were analyzed by independent observers. Using confocal microscopy, the software reliably traced nerve fibers. In contrast, rendering of nerve fibers was inferior using widefield microscopy. Interob-server reliability was suboptimal using widefield images compared to confocal (ICC ¼ 0.82 vs ICC ¼ 0.98). Correlation between 3D-re-construction and stereology was poor (ICC ¼ 0.38). The newly developed technique of SGNFD quantitation using 3D reconstruction of SG innervation with confocal microscopy reliably traces nerve fibers, shows outstanding reproducibility, is almost completely unbiased, and superior to conventional stereology methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)453-459
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2019


  • Dermal autonomic innervation
  • Nerve fiber density
  • Sudomotor innervation
  • Sweat gland innervation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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