Research Summary: Imaging and Quantification of Subbasal Nerve Plexus in Healthy Volunteers and Diabetic Patients with or without Retinopathy



The alterations of subbasal nerve plexus (SBP) innervation and corneal sensation were estimated non-invasively and compared with the values in healthy volunteers. Additionally, this study addressed the relation of SBP changes to the retinal status, glycemic control and diabetes duration.

Methodology/Principal Findings

Eighteen eyes of diabetic patients with peripheral diabetic neuropathy aged 68.8±8.8 years and twenty eyes of healthy volunteers aged 66.3±13.3 yrs. were investigated with in vivo confocal laser-scanning microscopy (CLSM). An adapted algorithm for image analysis was used to quantify the morphological and topological properties of SBP. These properties were correlated to incidence of diabetic retinopathy (DR) and corneal sensation (Cochet-Bonnet esthesiometer). The developed algorithm allows a fully automated analysis of pre-segmented SBP structures. Altogether, 10 parameters were analysed, and all of them revealed significant differences between diabetic patients and healthy volunteers. The nerve fibre density, total fibre length and nerve branches were found to be significantly lower in patients with diabetes than those of control subjects (nerve fibre density 0.006±0.002 vs. 0.020±0.007 mm/mm2


SBP parameters were significantly reduced in diabetic patients, compared to control group. Interestingly, the SBP impairment could be shown even in the diabetic patients without DR. Although automatic adapted image analysis simplifies the evaluation of in vivo CLSM data, image acquisition and quantitative analysis should be optimised for the everyday clinical practice.


Publisher: Public Library of Science

Date Published: 15-January-2013

Author(s): Zhivov A., Winter K., Hovakimyan M., Peschel S., Harder V., Schober H., Kundt G., Baltrusch S., Guthoff R., Stachs O.


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