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Colorectal Dis. 2013;15(10):e592-8. doi: 10.1111/codi.12331.

Interstitial cells of Cajal: crucial for the development of megacolon in human Chagas' disease?

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Institute of Anatomy I, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Erlangen, Germany.



Megacolon, chronic dilation of a colonic segment,is accompanied by extensive myenteric neuron loss. However, this fails to explain unequivocally the formation of megacolon. We aimed to study further enteric structures that are directly or indirectly involved in colonic motility.


From surgically removed megacolon segments of seven Chagasic patients, three sets of cryosections from oral, megacolonic and anal zones were immunohistochemically quadruple-stained for smooth-muscle actin (SMA), synaptophysin (SYN, for nerve fibres), S100 (glia) and c-Kit (interstitial cells of Cajal, ICCs). Values of area measurements were related to the appropriate muscle layer areas and these proportions were compared with those of seven non-Chagasic control patients.


Whereas nerve and glia profile proportions did not mirror unequivocally the changes of Chagasic colon calibre (nondilation/dilation/nondilation), the proportions of SMA (i.e. muscle tissue density) and c-Kit (i.e. ICC density) did so: they decreased from the oral to the megacolonic segment but increased to the anal zones (muscle tissue density: control 68.3%, oral 54.3%, mega 42.1%, anal 47.6%; ICC-density: control 1.8%, oral 1.1%, mega 0.4, anal 0.8%).


Of the parameters evaluated, muscle tissue and ICC densities may be involved in the formation of Chagasic megacolon, although the mechanism of destruction cannot be deduced.


Chagasic megacolon; enteric glia; enteric nervous system; interstitial cells of Cajal; neurodegeneration; smooth muscle density

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