Morphometric study of the small intestinal mucosa in young, adult, and old rats submitted to protein deficiency and rehabilitation
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Linear and stereological morphometric methods were applied to the jejunal and ileal mucosa of young, adult, and old male Wistar rats submitted to protein deficiency and rehabilitation. The animals were fed ad libitum a 2% casein diet during 42 days and then received a 20% casein diet for 30 days. Food intake, body weights, and plasma protein concentrations were recorded. In the young protein deficient rats values of mucosal height, surface area, and volume of the lamina propria were significantly lower than those of their age controls in both jejunum and ileum. In adults the differences were less marked and in the old rats all parameters were found to be unaltered by the protein deficient diet. The surface-to-volume ratio showed no significant differences between control and protein deficient in all three age groups, meaning that villus pattern did not change with protein deficiency. On rehabilitation, a striking difference between jejunum and ileum was observed in the young rats; all parameters returned to control levels in the jejunum, while they remained lower than those of their controls in the ileum.