J Clin Neurol.  2019 Oct;15(4):537-544. 10.3988/jcn.2019.15.4.537.

Tissue-Clearing Technique and Cutaneous Nerve Biopsies: Quantification of the Intraepidermal Nerve-Fiber Density Using Active Clarity Technique-Pressure Related Efficient and Stable Transfer of Macromolecules Into Organs

  • 1Department of Anatomy, Korea University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea. irhyu@korea.ac.kr
  • 2Department of Dermatology, Korea University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
  • 3Department of Neurology, Korea University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
  • 4Division of Brain Korea 21 Plus Program for Biomedical Science, Korea University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.


Cutaneous nerve biopsies based on two-dimensional analysis have been regarded as a creditable assessment tool for diagnosing peripheral neuropathies. However, advancements in methodological imaging are required for the analysis of intact structures of peripheral nerve fibers. A tissue-clearing and labeling technique facilitates three-dimensional imaging of internal structures in unsectioned, whole biological tissues without excessive time or labor costs. We sought to establish whether a tissue-clearing and labeling technique could be used for the diagnostic evaluation of peripheral neuropathies.
Five healthy individuals and four patients with small-fiber neuropathy (SFN) and postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) were prospectively enrolled. The conventional methods of indirect immunofluorescence (IF) and bright-field immunohistochemistry (IHC) were adopted in addition to the tissue-clearing and labeling method called active clarity technique-pressure related efficient and stable transfer of macromolecules into organs (ACT-PRESTO) to quantify the intraepidermal nerve-fiber density (IENFD).
The mean IENFD values obtained by IF, bright-field IHC, and ACT-PRESTO in the healthy control group were 6.54, 6.44, and 90.19 fibers/mm², respectively; the corresponding values in the patients with SFN were 1.99, 2.32, and 48.12 fibers/mm², respectively, and 3.06, 2.87, and 47.21 fibers/mm², respectively, in the patients with PHN.
This study has shown that a tissue-clearing method provided not only rapid and highly reproducible three-dimensional images of cutaneous nerve fibers but also yielded reliable quantitative IENFD data. Quantification of the IENFD using a tissue-clearing and labeling technique is a promising way to improve conventional cutaneous nerve biopsies.


cutaneous nerve biopsy; peripheral neuropathy; tissue-clearing and labeling technique; ACT-PRESTO; intraepidermal nerve-fiber density
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