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Am Rev Respir Dis. 1987 Aug;136(2):445-7.

Assessment of postmortem respiratory ciliary motility and ultrastructure.


Acquired and congenital abnormalities in the mucociliary transport system result in respiratory dysfunction and clinical disease. Although upper and lower respiratory epithelium can be analyzed premortem, it is uncertain whether postmortem analyses provide a valid indicator of the premortem status of the ciliary apparatus. To address this question, we studied nasal ciliary motility and ultrastructure from 2 patients 16 h after death. After placement of the epithelial samples in Krebs-Henseleit solution and warming to body temperature, normal ciliary motility and frequency were observed in both samples. The specimen then could be stored within the solution at 4 degrees C for subsequent reanalysis on later days for as long as 60 h after collection with no deterioration in ciliary motility, as assessed by video motion analysis. Quantitative assessment of the ciliary ultrastructure did not reveal any abnormality in microtubular arrangements, and good tissue preservation was seen. These studies demonstrate that postmortem collection of nasal epithelium samples can provide a valid assessment of premortem ciliary structure and function.

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