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Keywords:

  • Crohn’s disease;
  • enteric nervous system;
  • immunohistochemistry;
  • ulcerative colitis

Abstract  Various studies have described abnormalities of the enteric nervous system (ENS) in tissue samples from patients with chronic idiopathic inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). The distribution of density of the different cell types of the ENS was however not studied in a systematic way. The aim of this study was to examine the density of neurons, enteroglial cells and interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) in the different plexuses of the ENS in samples from patients with Crohn’s disease (CD), ulcerative colitis (UC) and controls. Tissue samples from 16 patients with CD (ileum) and 16 patients with UC obtained in involved and non-involved areas were studied using immunohistochemistry with antibodies directed against neuron-specific enolase, S100, C-Kit and CD3. Sections were analysed blindly by two pathologists and the number of positive cells was counted for each type. Overall, an increase was noted for neuronal cell bodies, enteroglia and ICC in the deep muscular plexus in CD. In uninvolved areas of CD patients, the number of enteroglial cells was decreased. In UC, an increase of ICC in the muscularis propria and enteroglial cells was observed in diseased tissue. The study confirms the presence of abnormalities of the different cells of the ENS in IBD. The presence of lesions in samples from uninvolved areas, such as a reduction of enteroglia, supports a pathogenetic role of the ENS.