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J Appl Physiol (1985). 1992 Apr;72(4):1473-9.

Structural changes in elastic fibers after pancreatic elastase administration in hamsters.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710.


Ultrastructural changes in lung parenchymal elastic fibers were studied morphometrically 1, 4, and 12 wk after a single 12-unit dose of pancreatic elastase and in a saline-instilled control group. The mean linear intercept of the parenchymal air spaces was increased in the 1-, 4-, and 12-wk post-elastase instillation groups compared with age-matched controls. The volume of alveolar connective tissue fibers predominantly composed of elastin (elastic fibers) was decreased by 35% 1 wk after the instillation of elastase but returned to control levels by 4 wk. Although the total volume of elastic fibers was normal 12 wk after instillation of elastase, the volume of elastic fibers in alveolar entrance rings remained significantly reduced. In serial sections of elastic fibers, numerous gaps or separations in the normally continuous band of elastic fibers that encircle each alveolus were identified 1 wk after elastase instillation. There were 169 +/- 8 (SE), 62 +/- 32, and 12 +/- 6 gaps per millimeter of alveolar entrance ring circumference at 1, 4, and 12 wk, respectively, in the elastase-treated groups. The number of gaps at 12 wk was equivalent to two gaps or discontinuities in the elastic fibers of every alveolar entrance ring. No gaps or separations in elastic fibers were detected at 1, 4, or 12 wk in the control groups. These defects occur in concordance with the progression of air space enlargement and presumably contribute to the progression of air space enlargement that occurs after the elastin content of the tissue has returned to normal.

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