The cutaneous microvascular architecture of human diabetic toe studied by corrosion casting and scanning electron microscopy analysis

Anat Rec (Hoboken). 2010 Oct;293(10):1639-45. doi: 10.1002/ar.21168. Epub 2010 Aug 4.


In this morphological study, we report on the three-dimensional microvascular architecture constituting the toes of a patient affected by diabetic microangiopathy. We applied corrosion casting (CC) technique to the toes of a patient affected by Type 2 diabetes, who underwent surgery for explantation of inferior left limb due to necrotic processes of soft tissues. The toes of a foot traumatically explanted in a motorcycle accident were kept as controls. According to technical protocols, toes were injected with a low-viscosity acrylic resin (Mercox) through the major digital artery, tissues were corroded in KOH solution (8%), and resulting casts processed for SEM observations. Already at low magnification, in diabetic toes, we found an impairment of the linear track-like disposition of the vessels of plantar side, with signs of vascular disruption and obliterations, stopped resin, and leakages. Capillaries under the nail and a lot of vascular villi in eponychium and nail borders were damaged, and vascular regression phenomena acting on them were clearly visible. Resin leakages and impairment of normal vascular architecture were also observed in the root of the nail. This preliminary report represents only the first step for further investigations regarding morphological three-dimensional appearance of diabetic microangiopathy. CC and scanning electron microscopy technique well documented these morphological modifications, highlighting on both structural and ultrastructural features of diabetic toes microvessels. In conclusion, our qualitative data try to better focus on the pathophysiological mechanisms involved in diabetic dermopathy and microangiopathy, proposing CC as useful method to investigate on them.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Corrosion Casting / methods
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / pathology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology
  • Diabetic Angiopathies / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning / methods*
  • Microvessels / pathology*
  • Microvessels / ultrastructure
  • Toes / blood supply*