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Keywords:

  • alcohol;
  • chronic ethanol exposure;
  • nerve conduction study;
  • neuropathy;
  • rat model

ABSTRACT

Introduction

The aim of this work was to determine the effect of chronic alcohol exposure on peripheral nerves in a nutritionally balanced rat model of alcoholism.

Methods

Three different strains of adult male rats were pair-fed for 8 weeks with isocaloric liquid diets containing 0% or 37% ethanol. Nerve conduction studies (NCS) were performed. Peripheral nerve and muscle were examined histologically with morphometrics.

Results

Ethanol exposure significantly slowed velocity in tibial and fibular nerves, but not in the plantar nerve in all 3 strains. Studies of the sciatic nerve revealed decreased fiber diameters and increased regenerative sprouts in peripheral nerves. There was muscle denervation of ethanol-exposed rats in all 3 strains.

Conclusions

Chronic ethanol exposure caused a polyneuropathy characterized by axonal degeneration despite adequate nutrition. These results suggest that ethanol exposure has direct neurotoxic effects on peripheral nerves. This model may be useful in understanding the underlying mechanism(s) of alcohol-related peripheral neuropathy. Muscle Nerve, 48: 204–211, 2013