Honors College

Document Type

Honors Thesis




Kristy Townsend

Committee Members

Lynn Atkins, Magdalena Blaszkiewics, Leonard Kass, Sharon Tisher

Graduation Year

May 2020

Publication Date

Spring 5-2020


With the ever-growing pandemic of obesity comes a multitude of consequential morbidities, such as increased risk of heart disease and type II Diabetes Mellitus. Secondary to diabetes is diabetic neuropathy, the regression or dying back of nerves that often occurs in the extremities, leading to loss of sensation or pain. Additionally, aging is a risk factor for obesity, diabetes, and neuropathy. Responsible for the communication between the extremities and peripheral tissues, such as adipose (fat), and the brain, is the peripheral nervous system. The peripheral nervous system is the umbrella under which varying types of nerves are designated, including sympathetic, parasympathetic, and sensory nerves, which have been shown to innervate adipose tissue. Both the peripheral nervous system (PNS) and central nervous system (CNS) house glial cells, whose neuron-supporting functions are vital for maintaining homeostasis. Oligodendrocytes are the myelin-forming cells of the CNS, while Schwann cells are the myelin-forming cells of the PNS. Myelin is a fatty substance that ensheaths the axons of neurons, insulating them and allowing signals to be propagated through the body faster. Where as crosstalk between glia and the immune system in the CNSis of increasing popularity in current research, much less is known about relative roles of glia and local immune cells in the PNS, particularly in adipose. This thesis delves into further investigating the types of glia that may be present in and interact with adipose tissue nerves. A better understanding of this interaction in adipose will be beneficial in uncovering mechanisms of proper energy balance and metabolic health, as well as potentially mitigating the progression of diabetic neuropathy, or the death of peripheral nerves. To our knowledge, this thesis investigates the first ever immunopanning experiments for Schwann cells in adipose tissue.