Scanning Electron Microscopy


Acute duodenal ulcers are produced in mice as a remote ("abscopal") effect of irradiation to the lower mediastinum. Such lesions have been examined with scanning electron microscopy at 5, 8 and 28 days after irradiation with 18 Gy of X-rays. All the ulcers occur within the first 1 cm long segment of the duodenum which is endowed with Brunner's glands. The single lesions vary in size, shape and position. The damaged area often includes much of the duodenal circumference and is distinguished by conical or rudimentary villi, or even by the complete absence of villi. In contrast, around the periphery of the ulcer the villi are mostly vertical. Although the floor of these lesions appears to be covered with a continuous epithelial layer, during the first 4 weeks after irradiation the severity of the focal duodenal damage seems to increase gradually with time. The lesions have been compared with specimens from unirradiated mice and also with samples taken 3 days after partial thoracic irradiation when little damage is seen. The pattern of fully developed duodenal lesions differs greatly from that seen after direct irradiation where damage has not included localised ulceration in the samples of jejunum so far examined.

The lesions induced by partial thoracic irradiation may be related to radiation injury to vascular or autonomic nerve targets in the lower mediastinum. Such injury could result in malfunction of the pyloric sphincter or could alter the secretion by Brunner's glands and thus lead to duodenal ulceration.

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