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Equine Vet J. 2001 Nov;33(6):554-60.

Histological characteristics of induced acute peptic injury in equine gastric squamous epithelium.

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Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Leesburg 20177, USA.


The objective of the study reported here was to characterise the microscopic appearance of peptic-injured equine gastric squamous epithelium in relation to the duration of peptic injury. Erosions and ulcers were induced in equine gastric squamous epithelium using a feed deprivation protocol that results in prolonged increased gastric acidity. Specimens of normal gastric mucosa and mucosa with lesions created after 48 and 96 h of feed deprivation were compared for characteristics associated with angiogenesis and mucosal proliferation. Fifteen mature horses, 9 geldings and 6 mares, age 3-20 years, were divided into 3 groups. Group 1 (n = 5) had normal-appearing gastric squamous mucosal epithelium and had been killed due to problems unrelated to the gastrointestinal tract. Groups 2 (n = 5) and 3 (n = 5) had lesions induced in the gastric squamous epithelium by alternating 24 h periods of feed deprivation and ad libitum access to hay, for totals of 48 and 96 h feed deprivation, respectively. Following lethal injection of barbiturate, stomachs were removed and fixed by filling with 4-6 l 10% buffered formalin. Sections were made from lesions in the gastric squamous epithelium adjacent to the margo plicatus along the right side of the stomach/greater curvature and the lesser curvature. Measurements of total epithelial thickness, keratinised epithelium, nonkeratinised epithelium, epithelial projections, capillary extension into the epithelium and lamina propria thickness were made. The cross-sectional areas of arterial and venous vascular structures in the lamina propria at the lesions and their margins were measured using image analysis software. All horses, except one, in Group 2 developed erosions or ulcers in the gastric squamous epithelium after feed deprivation. There were several changes in the epithelium adjacent to erosions and ulcers, compared to normal epithelium, from horses in Groups 2 and 3: total epithelial thickness was significantly (P<0.05) greater, including both keratinised and nonkeratinised layers in most specimens; the length of epithelial projections and extent to which capillaries from the lamina propria extended toward the luminal surface, and the cross-sectional area of vascular structures (arterioles, capillaries, venules) in the lamina propria were significantly greater. Epithelial thickness of erosion beds was not significantly less than normal epithelium, although a greater proportion of the epithelium in erosions consisted of epithelial projections (Group 1, 23%; Group 2, 76%; Group 3, 72%). The cross-sectional area of vascular structures in the lamina propria beneath erosions was significantly greater than in normal mucosa only in Group 2 tissues, whereas in the lamina propria of ulcers it was significantly greater than in normal mucosa only in Group 3 tissues. The epithelial proliferation and increased vascular cross-sectional area in the lamina propria associated with peptic-induced gastric lesions are consistent with processes associated with the initiation of ulcer healing, and these changes temporally coincided with the initiation of peptic insult to the gastric squamous epithelium. These findings demonstrate that processes that promote ulcer healing begin soon after peptic injury and that they progress even with repeated peptic injury. Furthermore, our findings support observations that gastric ulcers often heal without medical intervention, and the theory that medications that reduce gastric acidity do not initiate healing, but rather facilitate ulcer healing by providing a microenvironment that is optimal for healing to proceed.

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