Reasons for performing study: The gastrointestinal pacemaker cells, the interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC), have been implicated in several human gastrointestinal dysmotility syndromes. Recently, the involvement of these cells in equine gastrointestinal diseases has been investigated in cases of equine grass sickness where a significant reduction in ICC density was observed.
Objective: To investigate ICC density in equine obstructive gastrointestinal disorders using immunohistochemical labelling methods.
Methods: Intestinal samples were analysed from 44 horses undergoing exploratory surgery for colic and from 11 control animals subjected to euthanasia for conditions not related to the gastrointestinal tract. Inummohistochemical labelling of ICC was carried out using an anti-c-Kit antibody. Two independent observers assessed ICC density using a semiquantitative grading system.
Results: There was a significant reduction in ICC density in horses with large colon disorders compared to the controls (P<0.01). Horses with strangulating lesions of the small intestine showed no difference when compared to the controls.
Conclusions: There was a reduction in ICC density in horses with large intestinal disorders.
Potential relevance: The reduction in ICC density may be associated with the clinical findings as well as recurrent colic episodes observed in a number of these cases. This immunohistochemical study provides a basis for future functional electrophysiological investigations to determine the precise effect of ICC reduction on equine intestinal motility.