Biochemical factors and pathological phenomena concerning myelin have been studied before. However, the mechanism leading to myelination and demyelination is still unclear. In particular, the mechanical properties of the myelin structure can be difficult to measure.

Thanks to the progress of nanomechanical instrumentation, dynamic contact apparatus combined with continuous stiffness measurement provides depth-sensing nanoindentation, which is capable of studying the multilayered and complex myelin structure.

Nanomechanical profile

Three major types of the developed myelinated structures were prepared by co-culturing PC12 with Schwann cells in vitro. As shown in the figure, stiffness profiles on the multilayered nanostructures were characterized in situ. This information, acquired instantaneously via an infinitesimal and continuous loading-unloading process, reveals the multilayered properties as profiled by contact stiffness and shows the myelin structures at various stages of development.

By investigating the inner structure of developed myelin, the researchers hope to associate the data with the quality of nerve regeneration and to discriminate its development process. Furthermore, the technique is promising for pathological studies to demonstrate the structural changes caused by nerve-related diseases.

The team published its work in the journal Nanotechnology.