Skin and self-injury: A possible link between peripheral innervation and immune function?

Frank J Symons, Elizabeth Gilles, Raymond Tervo, Gwen Wendelschafer-Crabb, Ioanna Panoutsopoulou, William R Kennedy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The aim of this preliminary case study series was to investigate epidermal innervation in pediatric patients with significant neurological impairment and self-injurious behavior. We enrolled four pediatric patients with self-injury (two males, two females; mean age 12y, range 9-14y) and used archival specimens from healthy, age-matched children with typical development for comparison purposes. Epidermal nerve fiber density, peptide content, and mast cell degranulation patterns from non-damaged skin were tested between the patients and the comparison group. The male patients with self-injury had significantly increased epidermal nerve fiber densities, increased substance P positive fiber count and extensive mast cell degranulation compared with sex- and age-matched individuals with typical development. Our case series shows for the first time altered peripheral innervation from non-damaged tissue in children with significant self-injury and developmental disability compared with a healthy comparison group. Establishing the role of peripheral nociceptive and immune modulatory neural pathways may offer new treatment avenues for this devastating neurobehavioral disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)677-680
Number of pages4
JournalDevelopmental Medicine and Child Neurology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Mac Keith Press.


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