Scanning Microscopy


5-Fluorouracil (5-FU) is a widely used antineoplastic agent. 5-FU induced cardiotoxicity is a still relatively unknown side-effect of this drug. This phenomenon could be due to a direct cytotoxic effect on the endothelial cells. We tested this hypothesis in an experimental study in rabbits, by scanning or transmission electron microscopic evaluation of endothelium in small arteries (the central artery of the ear) after in vivo treatment with 5-FU. Both local and systemic effects of 5-FU on endothelium were studied 15, 30, 60 and 120 minutes after intra-arterial or intraperitoneal treatment. Perfusion fixation at physiological pressure and temperature was used in order to minimize damage to the endothelium during the preparation procedure. Eighteen rabbits weighing 2.5-3.0 kg were used, and 6 animals served as controls. The following parameters were evaluated: vessel wall and endothelial cell contraction, cell edema, cytolysis, occurrence of denuded areas, platelet adhesion/aggregation and fibrin formation. For the description of each parameter a scale of negative points was used. Irreversible cell damage was observed in 5-FU treated animals: disruption of the endothelial sheet and patchy exposure of the subendothelium, sometimes as a focus for thrombus formation. Our findings support the hypothesis that the thrombogenic effect of 5-FU secondary to its direct cytotoxic effect on endothelium might be one of the pathophysiological mechanisms behind 5-FU induced cardiotoxicity.

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