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Histol Histopathol. 2017 Jun;32(6):639-647. doi: 10.14670/HH-11-829. Epub 2016 Oct 5.

The effect of bilberries on diabetes-related alterations of interstitial cells of Cajal in the lower oesophageal sphincter in rats.

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Department of Histology and Embryology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Nis, Nis, Serbia.
Department of Histology and Pathology, Institute for Medical Research, Belgrade, Serbia.
Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine, University of Nis, Nis, Serbia.
Department of Anatomy, Faculty of Medicine, University of Nis, Nis, Serbia.
Clinic for Orthopedics and Traumasurgery, Second Surgical Clinic, Hospital Coburg, Coburg, Germany.
Institute for Public Health, Center for Microbiology, Nis, Serbia.
Department of Food Science and Technology, Biotechnical Faculty, University of Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Department of Histology and Embryology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Nis, Nis, Serbia.


Diabetic gastroenteropathy involves not only the parasympathetic and sympathetic autonomic nerves, but also enteric neurons, smooth muscle cells and interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC). ICC are the cells of mesenchymal origin that occur within and around the muscle layers in the gastrointestinal tract. The objective of the present study was to investigate the alterations of ICC in the lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS) of streptozotocin-nicotinamide non-insulin-dependent diabetes rats. Moreover, we investigated possible ICC in rats with the same type of diabetes, treated with bilberry fruit extract, bearing in mind that its hypoglycemic effect had been already proven. Male Wistar rats (10 weeks old) were used, and diabetes was induced by an intraperitoneal injection of streptozotocin, immediately after intraperitoneal application of nicotinamide. The specimens were exposed to anti-c-kit antibodies to investigate the distribution of ICC, and the smooth muscle cells were immunohistochemically labelled using anti-desmin antibodies. Intramuscular ICC were very abundant in the LOS of rats. They were spindle-shaped, with two long processes connecting them into long linear sequences. In the LOS of diabetic rats, intramuscular ICC were rarely present and linear cell-cell connections between these cells were completely missing. In groups treated with bilberry, the number and distribution of ICC were exactly the same as in the above described rats with induced diabetes. In summary, a decrease of intramuscular ICC, discontinuities and breakdown of contacts between ICC were observed in streptozotocin-nicotinamide induced diabetes rats and in groups treated with bilberry. Bilberry fruit extract was shown to have hypoglycemic activity, but without any protective effects on ICC in the LOS of diabetic rats.

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