Comparison between the cervical and abdominal vagus nerves in mice, pigs, and humans

Nathalie Stakenborg, Pedro J. Gomez-Pinilla, Thomas J. M. Verlinden, Albert M. Wolthuis, Andre D'Hoore, Ricard Farr, Paul Herijgers, Gianluca Matteoli, Guy E. Boeckxstaens*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background Vagus nerve (VN) stimulation is currently evaluated as a novel approach to treat immune-mediated disorders. The optimal stimulation parameters, however, largely depend on the VN composition potentially impacting on its clinical translation. Hence, we evaluated whether morphological differences exist between the cervical and abdominal VNs across different species.

Materials and methods The cervical and abdominal VNs of mouse, pig, and humans were stained for major basic protein and neurofilament F to identify the percentage and size of myelinated and non-myelinated fibers.

Results The percentage of myelinated fibers was comparable between species, but was higher in the cervical VN compared with the abdominal VN. The cervical VN contained 54 +/- 4%, 47 +/- 7%, and 54 +/- 7% myelinated fibers in mouse, pig, and humans, respectively. The myelinated fibers consisted of small-diameter (mouse: 71%, pig: 80%, and humans: 63%), medium-diameter (mouse: 21%, pig: 18%, and humans: 33%), and large-diameter fibers (mouse: 7%, pig: 2%, and humans: 4%). The abdominal VN predominantly contained unmyelinated fibers (mouse: 93%, pig: 90%, and humans: 94%). The myelinated fibers mainly consisted of small-diameter fibers (mouse: 99%, pig: 85%, and humans: 74%) and fewer medium-diameter (mouse: 1%, pig: 13%, and humans: 23%) and large-diameter fibers (mouse: 0%, pig: 2%, and humans: 3%).

Conclusion The VN composition was largely similar with respect to myelinated and unmyelinated fibers in the species studied. Human and porcine VNs had a comparable diameter and similar amounts of fibrous tissue and contained multiple fascicles, implying that the porcine VN may be suitable to optimize stimulation parameters for clinical trials.

Original languageEnglish
Article number13889
Number of pages8
JournalNeurogastroenterology and Motility
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


  • histology
  • human
  • mouse
  • pig
  • vagus nerve

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