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Open Access Spontaneous Cholangiofibrosis in Long-Evans Cinnamon Rats: A Rodent Model for Wilson's Disease

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The Long-Evans Cinnamon (LEC) rat is a rodent model of Wilson's disease characterized by ceruloplasmin deficiency, hepatic copper accumulation, and hepatocellular injury. So far, the LEC rat appears to be the only strain in which cholangiofibrosis develops spontaneously. The aim of the study reported here was to characterize the time course of development and investigate the structural and ultrastructural features of cholangiofibrosis and their possible relationship to hepatic copper and iron content. The livers of 54 rats (22 males), ages 5 to 113 weeks, were examined by light microscopy and graded for statistical analysis, with respect to extent of replacement of liver tissue by cholangiofibrosis. The study was complemented by electron microscopy, and by measurements of copper and iron contents by atomic absorption spectroscopy. Cholangiofibrosis was present in LEC rats by 20 weeks of age. The hyperplastic biliary epithelial cells varied markedly in size and shape, ranging from flat to cuboidal or elongated. Epithelial cells did not exhibit characteristics of intestinal cells. Some basement membranes had splits, duplications, or multiplications. Cytoplasmic organelles within hyperplastic biliary cells appeared unremarkable in contrast to the characteristic mitochondrial abnormalities present in neighboring hepatocytes. There was a positive correlation between histologic grades of cholangiofibrosis and ages of the animals (r = 0.68, P < 0.001), but no significant correlation between histologic grade and hepatic copper or iron content. We conclude that cholangiofibrosis is the predominant pathologic response to chronic liver injury induced by excess copper in LEC rats. The pathogenic role of copper in the development of cholangiofibrosis requires clearer definition.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Marion Bessin Liver Research Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1300 Morris Park Avenue, Ullmann Building, Room 123, Bronx, NY 10461 2: The National Center for the Study of Wilson's Disease, St. Luke's/ Roosevelt Medical Center, Columbia University, New York, New York 3: Department of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Marion Bessin Liver Research Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York

Publication date: 1998-04-01

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  • Comparative Medicine (CM), an international journal of comparative and experimental medicine, is the leading English-language publication in the field and is ranked by the Science Citation Index in the upper third of all scientific journals. The mission of CM is to disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed information that expands biomedical knowledge and promotes human and animal health through the study of laboratory animal disease, animal models of disease, and basic biologic mechanisms related to disease in people and animals.

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