Aims: Sorbitol and myo-inositol levels and morphology of sural nerve were compared with nerve function and clinical neuropathy in men with diabetic, impaired (IGT), and normal glucose tolerance.
Methods: After neurography of sural nerve and determinations of sensory thresholds for vibration, warm and cold on the foot, whole nerve sural nerve biopsy was performed in 10 men with Type 1 diabetes mellitus, 10 with IGT, and 10 with normal glucose tolerance. Polyol levels were assessed by gas-liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry.
Results: Sural nerve amplitudes were significantly lower and sorbitol levels significantly higher in diabetic patients (median (interquartile range)) (3.7 (3.5) microV and 643 (412) pmol/mg protein, respectively) both compared with IGT (11.3 (10.6)microV; P = 0.04 and 286 (83) pmol/mg protein; P = 0.0032, respectively) and normally glucose tolerant (10.0 (11.6); P = 0.0142 and 296 (250) pmol/mg protein; P = 0.0191, respectively) subjects. There were no differences in nerve morphology between the three groups. Nerve myo-inositol levels correlated, however, positively with cluster density (rs = 0.56; P = 0.0054). In diabetic and IGT subjects, sural nerve amplitudes (2.6 (3.8) vs. 12.1 (10.6) microV; P = 0.0246) and myelinated nerve fibre density (MNFD; 4,076 (1091) vs. 5,219 (668) nerve fibres/mm2; P = 0.0021) were significantly lower in nine subjects with clinical neuropathy than in 10 without.
Conclusions: Nerve degeneration (i.e. MNFD) correlated with clinical neuropathy but not with glucose tolerance status whereas nerve myo-inositol levels positively correlated with signs of nerve regeneration (i.e. increased cluster density).