Scanning Microscopy


The mechanism of gastrointestinal villous damage following ionizing irradiation is complex. Various compartments within the gastrointestinal tract have in turn been considered important for the maintenance of normal villous structure. To date, however, evidence for a single overriding regulator of epithelial well-being is lacking.

In this study, the role of the gastrointestinal (enteroendocrine) cells is explored and comparison made between endocrine cell number and villous structure.

Experiments were organised using hath control and irradiated groups of mice. Two time points (1 and 3 days) and three radiation doses (6, 10 and 18Gy) were employed. A simple method for endocrine cell identification and subsequent quantification is described. Endocrine cell number was then compared with villous surface detail, as seen with a scanning electron microscope (SEM).

Results indicated a decrease in the endocrine cell number at all three radiation doses. Whereas at low doses endocrine cell recovery occurred between 1 and 3 days, at medium and high doses further decline was noticed. A similar pattern was seen when considering villous surface structure.

It is suggested that both scanning electron microscopy and endocrine cell number provide a more sensitive indicator of gastrointestinal radiation damage than do current crypt counting techniques. In addition, a link between endocrine cell number and villous structure is proposed.

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