Scielo RSS <![CDATA[Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research]]> vol. 35 num. 11 lang. en <![CDATA[SciELO Logo]]> <![CDATA[<B>The role of CD8<SUP>+</SUP> T cells during allograft rejection</B>]]> Organ transplantation can be considered as replacement therapy for patients with end-stage organ failure. The percent of one-year allograft survival has increased due, among other factors, to a better understanding of the rejection process and new immunosuppressive drugs. Immunosuppressive therapy used in transplantation prevents activation and proliferation of alloreactive T lymphocytes, although not fully preventing chronic rejection. Recognition by recipient T cells of alloantigens expressed by donor tissues initiates immune destruction of allogeneic transplants. However, there is controversy concerning the relative contribution of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells to allograft rejection. Some animal models indicate that there is an absolute requirement for CD4+ T cells in allogeneic rejection, whereas in others CD4-depleted mice reject certain types of allografts. Moreover, there is evidence that CD8+ T cells are more resistant to immunotherapy and tolerance induction protocols. An intense focal infiltration of mainly CD8+CTLA4+ T lymphocytes during kidney rejection has been described in patients. This suggests that CD8+ T cells could escape from immunosuppression and participate in the rejection process. Our group is primarily interested in the immune mechanisms involved in allograft rejection. Thus, we believe that a better understanding of the role of CD8+ T cells in allograft rejection could indicate new targets for immunotherapy in transplantation. Therefore, the objective of the present review was to focus on the role of the CD8+ T cell population in the rejection of allogeneic tissue. <![CDATA[<B>A mathematical framework for group analysis of von Willebrand factor multimeric composition following luminography</B>]]> The objective of the present study was to establish a method for quantitative analysis of von Willebrand factor (vWF) multimeric composition using a mathematical framework based on curve fitting. Plasma vWF multimers from 15 healthy subjects and 13 patients with advanced pulmonary vascular disease were analyzed by Western immunoblotting followed by luminography. Quantitative analysis of luminographs was carried out by calculating the relative densities of low, intermediate and high molecular weight fractions using laser densitometry. For each densitometric peak (representing a given fraction of vWF multimers) a mean area value was obtained using data from all group subjects (patients and normal individuals) and plotted against the distance between the peak and IgM (950 kDa). Curves were constructed for each group using nonlinear fitting. Results indicated that highly accurate curves could be obtained for healthy controls and patients, with respective coefficients of determination (r²) of 0.9898 and 0.9778. Differences were observed between patients and normal subjects regarding curve shape, coefficients and the region of highest protein concentration. We conclude that the method provides accurate quantitative information on the composition of vWF multimers and may be useful for comparisons between groups and possibly treatments. <![CDATA[<B>Plasma free and total carnitine measured in children by tandem mass spectrometry</B>]]> Free and total carnitine quantification is important as a complementary test for the diagnosis of unusual metabolic diseases, including fatty acid degradation disorders. The present study reports a new method for the quantification of free and total carnitine in dried plasma specimens by isotope dilution electrospray tandem mass spectrometry with sample derivatization. Carnitine is determined by looking for the precursor of ions of m/z = 103 of N-butylester derivative, and the method is validated by comparison with radioenzymatic assay. We obtained an inter- and intra-day assay coefficient of variation of 4.3 and 2.3, respectively. Free and total carnitine was analyzed in 309 dried plasma spot samples from children ranging in age from newborn to 14 years using the new method, which was found to be suitable for calculating reference age-related values for free and total carnitine (less than one month: 19.3 ± 2.4 and 23.5 ± 2.9; one to twelve months: 28.8 ± 10.2 and 35.9 ± 11.4; one to seven years: 30.7 ± 10.3 and 38.1 ± 11.9; seven to 14 years: 33.7 ± 11.6, and 43.1 ± 13.8 µM, respectively). No difference was found between males and females. A significant difference was observed between neonates and the other age groups. We compare our data with reference values in the literature, most of them obtained by radioenzymatic assay. However, this method is laborious and time consuming. The electrospray tandem mass spectrometry method presented here is a reliable, rapid and automated procedure for carnitine quantitation. <![CDATA[<B>The decrease in uroporphyrinogen decarboxylase activity induced by ethanol predisposes rats to the development of porphyria and accelerates xenobiotic-triggered porphyria, regardless of hepatic damage</B>]]> We evaluated the porphyrinogenic ability of ethanol (20% in drinking water) per se, its effect on the development of sporadic porphyria cutanea tarda induced by hexachlorobenzene in female Wistar rats (170-190 g, N = 8/group), and the relationship with hepatic damage. Twenty-five percent of the animals receiving ethanol increased up to 14-, 25-, and 4.5-fold the urinary excretion of delta-aminolevulinate, porphobilinogen, and porphyrins, respectively. Ethanol exacerbated the precursor excretions elicited by hexachlorobenzene. Hepatic porphyrin levels increased by hexachlorobenzene treatment, while this parameter only increased (up to 90-fold) in some of the animals that received ethanol alone. Ethanol reduced the activities of uroporphyrinogen decarboxylase, delta-aminolevulinate dehydrase and ferrochelatase. In the ethanol group, many of the animals showed a 30% decrease in uroporphyrinogen activity; in the ethanol + hexachlorobenzene group, this decrease occurred before the one caused by hexachlorobenzene alone. Ethanol exacerbated the effects of hexachlorobenzene, among others, on the rate-limiting enzyme delta-aminolevulinate synthetase. The plasma activities of enzymes that are markers of hepatic damage were similar in all drug-treated groups. These results indicate that 1) ethanol exacerbates the biochemical manifestation of sporadic hexachlorobenzene-induced porphyria cutanea tarda; 2) ethanol per se affects several enzymatic and excretion parameters of the heme metabolic pathway; 3) since not all the animals were affected to the same extent, ethanol seems to be a porphyrinogenic agent only when there is a predisposition, and 4) hepatic damage showed no correlation with the development of porphyria cutanea tarda. <![CDATA[<B>Clinical assessment of the effect of digital filtering on the detection of ventricular late potentials</B>]]> Ventricular late potentials are low-amplitude signals originating from damaged myocardium and detected on the body surface by ECG filtering and averaging. Digital filters present in commercial equipment may interfere with the ability of arrhythmia stratification. We compared 40-Hz BiSpec (BI) and classical 40- to 250-Hz band-pass Butterworth bidirectional (BD) filters in terms of impact on time domain variables and diagnostic properties. In a transverse retrospective age-adjusted case-control study, 221 subjects with sinus rhythm without bundle branch block were divided into three groups after signal-averaged ECG acquisition: GI (N = 40), clinically normal controls, GII (N = 158), subjects with coronary heart disease without sustained monomorphic ventricular tachycardia (SMVT), and GIII (N = 23), subjects with heart disease and documented SMVT. Conventional variables analyzed from vector magnitude data after averaging to 0.3 µV final noise were obtained by application of each filter to the averaged signal, and evaluated in pairs by numerical comparison and by diagnostic agreement assessment, using conventional and optimized thresholds of normality. Significant differences were found between BI and BD variables in all groups, with diagnostic results showing significant disagreement between both filters [kappa value of 0.61 (P<0.05) for GII and 0.31 for GIII (P = NS)]. Sensitivity for SMVT was lower with BI than with BD (65.2 vs 91.3%, respectively, P<0.05). Filters provided significantly different numerical and diagnostic results and the BI filter showed only limited clinical application to risk stratification of ventricular arrhythmia. <![CDATA[<B>Antimicrobial resistance among invasive <I>Haemophilus influenzae</I> strains</B>: <B>results of a Brazilian study carried out from 1996 through 2000</B>]]> A total of 1712 strains of Haemophilus influenzae isolated from patients with invasive diseases were obtained from ten Brazilian states from 1996 to 2000. ß-Lactamase production was assessed and the minimum inhibitory concentrations (MIC) of ampicillin, chloramphenicol, ceftriaxone and rifampin were determined using a method for broth microdilution of Haemophilus test medium. The prevalence of strains producing ß-lactamase ranged from 6.6 to 57.7%, with an overall prevalence of 18.4%. High frequency of ß-lactamase-mediated ampicillin resistance was observed in Distrito Federal (25%), São Paulo (21.7%) and Paraná (18.5%). Of the 1712 strains analyzed, none was ß-lactamase negative, ampicillin resistant. A total of 16.8% of the strains were resistant to chloramphenicol, and 13.8% of these also presented resistance to ampicillin, and only 3.0% were resistant to chloramphenicol alone. All strains were susceptible to ceftriaxone and rifampin and the MIC90 were 0.015 µg/ml and 0.25 µg/ml, respectively. Ceftriaxone is the drug of choice for empirical treatment of bacterial meningitis in pediatric patients who have not been screened for drug susceptibility. The emergence of drug resistance is a serious challenge for the management of invasive H. influenzae disease, which emphasizes the fundamental role of laboratory-based surveillance for antimicrobial resistance. <![CDATA[<B>Nitric oxide, cholesterol oxides and endothelium-dependent vasodilation in plasma of patients with essential hypertension</B>]]> The objective of the present study was to identify disturbances of nitric oxide radical (·NO) metabolism and the formation of cholesterol oxidation products in human essential hypertension. The concentrations of·NO derivatives (nitrite, nitrate, S-nitrosothiols and nitrotyrosine), water and lipid-soluble antioxidants and cholesterol oxides were measured in plasma of 11 patients with mild essential hypertension (H: 57.8 ± 9.7 years; blood pressure, 148.3 ± 24.8/90.8 ± 10.2 mmHg) and in 11 healthy subjects (N: 48.4 ± 7.0 years; blood pressure, 119.4 ± 9.4/75.0 ± 8.0 mmHg).Nitrite, nitrate and S-nitrosothiols were measured by chemiluminescence and nitrotyrosine was determined by ELISA. Antioxidants were determined by reverse-phase HPLC and cholesterol oxides by gas chromatography. Hypertensive patients had reduced endothelium-dependent vasodilation in response to reactive hyperemia (H: 9.3 and N: 15.1% increase of diameter 90 s after hyperemia), and lower levels of ascorbate (H: 29.2 ± 26.0, N: 54.2 ± 24.9 µM), urate (H: 108.5 ± 18.9, N: 156.4 ± 26.3 µM), ß-carotene (H: 1.1 ± 0.8, N: 2.5 ± 1.2 nmol/mg cholesterol), and lycopene (H: 0.4 ± 0.2, N: 0.7 ± 0.2 nmol/mg cholesterol), in plasma, compared to normotensive subjects. The content of 7-ketocholesterol, 5alpha-cholestane-3ß,5,6ß-triol and 5,6alpha-epoxy-5alpha-cholestan-3alpha-ol in LDL, and the concentration of endothelin-1 (H: 0.9 ± 0.2, N: 0.7 ± 0.1 ng/ml) in plasma were increased in hypertensive patients. No differences were found for ·NO derivatives between groups. These data suggest that an increase in cholesterol oxidation is associated with endothelium dysfunction in essential hypertension and oxidative stress, although ·NO metabolite levels in plasma are not modified in the presence of elevated cholesterol oxides. <![CDATA[<B>Prevalence of diarrheogenic <I>Escherichia</I> <I>coli</I> and rotavirus among children from Botucatu, São Paulo State, Brazil</B>]]> In a one-year prospective study carried out to define the role of rotavirus and Escherichia coli in local childhood diarrhea, we determined the prevalence of both agents in 54 diarrheic children attending a health center in Botucatu. Diarrheogenic E. coli (DEC) strains were characterized by O:H serotyping, a search for virulence genetic markers, and assays of adherence to HEp-2 cells. Except for enteroaggregative E. coli (EAEC), no other DEC category was detected in the children's stools. Both EAEC and rotavirus were isolated from 22 of the 54 (41.0%) diarrheic children as single agents or in combination with other enteropathogens. However, when considering the presence of a single agent, EAEC was dominant and isolated from 20.4% of the patients, whereas rotavirus was detected in 14.8%. These results indicate that rotavirus and EAEC play a significant role as agents of childhood diarrhea in the local population. <![CDATA[<B>Urinary iron excretion induced by intravenous infusion of deferoxamine in ß-thalassemia homozygous patients</B>]]> The purpose of the present study was to identify noninvasive methods to evaluate the severity of iron overload in transfusion-dependent ß-thalassemia and the efficiency of intensive intravenous therapy as an additional tool for the treatment of iron-overloaded patients. Iron overload was evaluated for 26 ß-thalassemia homozygous patients, and 14 of them were submitted to intensive chelation therapy with high doses of intravenous deferoxamine (DF). Patients were classified into six groups of increasing clinical severity and were divided into compliant and non-compliant patients depending on their adherence to chronic chelation treatment. Several methods were used as indicators of iron overload. Total gain of transfusion iron, plasma ferritin, and urinary iron excretion in response to 20 to 60 mg/day subcutaneous DF for 8 to 12 h daily are useful to identify iron overload; however, urinary iron excretion in response to 9 g intravenous DF over 24 h and the increase of urinary iron excretion induced by high doses of the chelator are more reliable to identify different degrees of iron overload because of their correlation with the clinical grades of secondary hemochromatosis and the significant differences observed between the groups of compliant and non-compliant patients. Finally, the use of 3-9 g intravenous DF for 6-12 days led to a urinary iron excretion corresponding to 4.1 to 22.4% of the annual transfusion iron gain. Therefore, continuous intravenous DF at high doses may be an additional treatment for these patients, as a complement to the regular subcutaneous infusion at home, but requires individual planning and close monitoring of adverse reactions. <![CDATA[<B>A new model for the immobilization of the rat hind limb</B>]]> An alternative device for the immobilization of the hind limb of the rat was developed to study the effects of chronic disuse on the soleus and tibialis anterior muscles, maintained for 3 weeks in the shortening and the stretching positions, respectively. The proposed device is made of steel mesh and cotton materials, and has some advantages when compared to cast or plaster cast: it is cheaper, lighter (12 g or 4% of the body weight of the rat) and the same unit can be easily adjusted and used several times in the same animal or in animals of similar size. Immobilization is also useful to restrain the movements of the hip, knee, and ankle joints. Male rats (291 ± 35 g and aged 14 ± 2 weeks) were used to develop and test the model. The soleus muscle of 18 rats was maintained in a shortened position for 21 consecutive days and lost 19 ± 7% of its length (P = 0.008) and 44 ± 6% of its weight (P = 0.002) compared to the contralateral intact muscle. No difference (P = 0.67) was found in the stretched tibialis anterior of the same hind limb when compared to the contralateral muscle. No ulcer, sore or foot swelling was observed in the animals. Immobilization was effective in producing chronic muscle disuse in the hind limbs of rats and is an acceptable alternative to the traditional methods of immobilization such as cast or plaster cast. <![CDATA[<B>CCR5 genotype and plasma ß-chemokine concentration of Brazilian HIV-infected individuals</B>]]> The 32-bp deletion in the HIV-1 co-receptor CCR5 confers a high degree of resistance to HIV-1 infection in homozygous individuals for the deleted allele and partial protection against HIV-1 during disease progression in heterozygotes. Natural ligands for CCR5, MIP-1alpha, MIP-1ß and RANTES, have been shown to inhibit HIV replication in CD4+ T cells. In the present study, we examined the CCR5 genotype by PCR and the plasma levels of RANTES and MIP-1alpha by ELISA among blood donors (N = 26) and among HIV-1-infected individuals (N = 129). The control group consisted of healthy adult volunteers and HIV-1-infected subjects were an asymptomatic and heterogeneous group of individuals with regard to immunologic and virologic markers of HIV-1 disease. The frequency of the CCR5 mutant allele (delta32ccr5) in this population was 0.032; however, no delta32ccr5 homozygote was detected. These results could be related to the intense ethnic admixture of the Brazilian population. There was no correlation between circulating ß-chemokines (MIP-1alpha, RANTES) and viral load in HIV-infected individuals. RANTES concentrations in plasma samples from HIV+ patients carrying the homozygous CCR5 allele (CCR5/CCR5) (28.23 ng/ml) were higher than in the control samples (16.07 ng/ml; P<0.05); however, this HIV+ patient group (mean 26.23 pg/ml) had significantly lower concentrations of MIP-1alpha than those observed in control samples (mean 31.20 pg/ml; P<0.05). Both HIV-1-infected and uninfected individuals heterozygous for the delta32ccr5 allele had significantly lower concentrations of circulating RANTES (mean 16.07 and 6.11 ng/ml, respectively) than CCR5/CCR5 individuals (mean 28.23 and 16.07 ng/ml, respectively; P<0.05). These findings suggest that the CCR5 allele and ß-chemokine production may affect the immunopathogenesis of HIV-1. <![CDATA[<B>Potentiation of carbon tetrachloride hepatotoxicity by pentosan polysulfate in rats</B>]]> Few data are available in the literature regarding the effect of pentosan polysulfate (PPS) on normal and fibrotic rat livers. In addition, the combination of PPS and carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) has not been studied so far. The objective of this study was to assess the effect of PPS on rat livers treated or not with CCl4 for the induction of liver fibrosis. The study consisted of four stages: 1) hepatic fibrosis induction with CCl4 (N = 36 rats); 2) evaluation of the effect of PPS on CCl4-induced hepatic fibrosis (N = 36 rats); 3) evaluation of the effect of higher doses of PPS in combination with CCl4 (N = 50 rats); 4) evaluation of the presence of an enzymatic inductor effect by PPS (N = 18 rats) using the sodium pentobarbital test which indirectly evaluates hepatic microsomal enzyme activity in vivo. Adult (60 to 70 days) male Wistar rats weighing 180 to 220 g were used. All animals receiving 0.5 ml 8% CCl4 (N = 36) developed hepatic fibrosis, and after 8 weeks they also developed cirrhosis. No delay or prevention of hepatic fibrosis was observed with the administration of 5 mg/kg PPS (N = 8) and 1 mg/kg PPS (N = 8) 1 h after the administration of CCl4, but the increased hepatotoxicity resulting from the combination of the two substances caused massive hepatic necrosis in most rats (N = 45). PPS (40 mg/kg) alone caused hepatic congestion only after 8 weeks, but massive hepatic necrosis was again observed in association with 0.5 ml CCl4 after 1 to 4 weeks of treatment. Unexpectedly, sleeping time increased with time of PPS administration (1, 2, or 3 weeks). This suggests that PPS does not function as an activator of the hepatic microsomal enzymatic system. Further studies are necessary in order to clarify the unexpected increase in hepatotoxicity caused by the combination of CCl4 and high doses of PPS, which results in massive hepatic necrosis. <![CDATA[<B>Kinetics of TNF-alpha and IFN-gamma mRNA expression in islets and spleen of NOD mice</B>]]> Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus is caused by autoimmune destruction of pancreatic ß cells. Non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice spontaneously develop diabetes similar to the human disease. Cytokines produced by islet-infiltrating mononuclear cells may be directly cytotoxic and can be involved in islet destruction coordinated by CD4+ and CD8+ cells. We utilized a semiquantitative RT-PCR assay to analyze in vitro the mRNA expression of TNF-alpha and IFN-gamma cytokine genes in isolated islets (N = 100) and spleen cells (5 x 10(5) cells) from female NOD mice during the development of diabetes and from female CBA-j mice as a related control strain that does not develop diabetes. Cytokine mRNAs were measured at 2, 4, 8, 14 and 28 weeks of age from the onset of insulitis to the development of overt diabetes. An increase in IFN-gamma expression in islets was observed for females aged 28 weeks (149 ± 29 arbitrary units (AU), P<0.05, Student t-test) with advanced destructive insulitis when compared with CBA-j mice, while TNF-alpha was expressed in both NOD and CBA-j female islets at the same level at all ages studied. In contrast, TNF-alpha in spleen was expressed at higher levels in NOD females at 14 weeks (99 ± 8 AU, P<0.05) and 28 weeks (144 ± 17 AU, P<0.05) of age when compared to CBA-j mice. The data suggest that IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha expression in pancreatic islets of female NOD mice is associated with ß cell destruction and overt diabetes. <![CDATA[<B>Contrast sensitivity to radial frequencies modulated by J<SUB>n </SUB>and j<SUB>n</SUB> Bessel profiles</B>]]> We measured human contrast sensitivity to radial frequencies modulated by cylindrical (Jo) and spherical (j o) Bessel profiles. We also measured responses to profiles of j o, j1, j2, j4, j8, and j16. Functions were measured three times by at least three of eight observers using a forced-choice method. The results conform to our expectations that sensitivity would be higher for cylindrical profiles. We also observed that contrast sensitivity is increased with the j n order for n greater than zero, having distinct orderly effects at the low and high frequency ends. For n = 0, 1, 2, and 4 sensitivity tended to occur around 0.8-1.0 cpd while for n = 8 and 16 it seemed to shift gradually to 0.8-3.0 cpd. We interpret these results as being consistent with the possibility that spatial frequency processing by the human visual system can be defined a priori in terms of polar coordinates and discuss its application to study face perception. <![CDATA[<B>Effect of cocaine on periadolescent rats with or without early maternal separation</B>]]> Cocaine-induced behavioral sensitization and weight loss were investigated in periadolescent Wistar rats kept with their mothers or subjected to repeated maternal separation. Litters allocated to the separation procedure were placed in a temperature-controlled (33ºC) chamber for 3 h per day from postnatal day 6 (P6) to P20. Non-handled rats were left undisturbed until weaning. Treatments were started on P30-31 and the test was performed on P36-37. Animals received injections of saline or cocaine (10 mg/kg, sc) twice daily for 5 days. On day 6 all animals received saline. On day 7 animals were challenged with 10 mg/kg cocaine and their locomotion was evaluated in activity cages. A third group received saline throughout the 7-day period. Body weights were recorded on P30-31 and P36-37. Two-way ANOVA on body weights showed a main effect of treatment group (F(1,35) = 10.446, P = 0.003; N = 10-12). Non-handled rats treated with cocaine for 5 days gained significantly less weight, while no significant effect was observed in maternally separated rats. Two-way ANOVA revealed a main effect of drug treatment on locomotor activity (F(2,32) = 15.209, P<0.001; N = 6-8), but not on rearing condition (F(1,32)<0.001, P = 0.998). Animals pretreated with cocaine showed a clear behavioral sensitization relative to the saline group. No difference in the magnitude of sensitization was found between separated and non-handled animals. Only the effect of cocaine on weight gain was significantly affected by repeated episodes of early maternal separation during the pre-weaning period. <![CDATA[<B>Sleep-wake pattern of medical students</B>: <B>early versus late class starting time</B>]]> The sleep-wake cycle of students is characterized by delayed onset, partial sleep deprivation and poor sleep quality. Like other circadian rhythms, the sleep-wake cycle is influenced by endogenous and environmental factors. The aim of the present study was to determine the effects of different class starting times on the sleep-wake pattern of 27 medical students. The data were collected during two medical school semesters having different class starting times. All subjects answered the Portuguese version of the Horne and Östberg Morningness/Eveningness Questionnaire, the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) and kept a sleep diary for two weeks during each semester. Better sleep quality (PSQI = 5.3 vs 3.4), delayed sleep onset (23:59 vs 0:54 h) and longer sleep duration (6 h and 55 min vs 7 h and 25 min) were observed with the late schedule. We also found reduced sleep durations during weekdays and extended sleep durations during weekends. This pattern was more pronounced during the semester with the early class schedule, indicating that the students were more sleep deprived when their classes began earlier in the morning. These results require further investigation regarding the temporal organization of our institutions. <![CDATA[<B>Protective role of antioxidant vitamin E and catechin on idarubicin-induced cardiotoxicity in rats</B>]]> Idarubicin is an anthracycline antibiotic extensively used in acute leukemia. In the present study we investigated whether vitamin E and catechin can reduce the toxic effects of idarubicin. Vitamin E (200 IU kg-1 week-1), catechin (200 mg kg-1 week-1), idarubicin (5 mg kg-1 week-1), idarubicin + vitamin E (200 IU kg-1 week-1), and idarubicin + catechin (200 mg kg-1 week-1) combinations were given to male Sprague-Dawley rats weighing 210 to 230 g (N = 6/group). Idarubicin-treated animals exhibited a decrease in body and heart weight, a decrease in myocardial contractility, and changes in ECG parameters (P<0.01). Catechin + idarubicin- and vitamin E + idarubicin-treated groups exhibited similar alterations, but changes were attenuated in comparison to those in cardiac muscle of idarubicin-treated rats (P<0.05). Superoxide dismutase and catalase activity was reduced in the idarubicin-treated group (P<0.05). Glutathione peroxidase levels were decreased in the idarubicin-treated group (P<0.05) and reached maximum concentrations in the catechin- and catechin + idarubicin-treated groups compared to control (P<0.01). Malondialdehyde activity was decreased in the catechin + idarubicin-treated groups compared to control and increased in the other groups, reaching maximum concentrations in the vitamin E-treated group (P<0.01). In electron microscopy studies, swelling of the mitochondria and dilatation of the sarcoplasmic reticulum of myocytes were observed in the idarubicin-treated groups. In groups that were given idarubicin + vitamin E and idarubicin + catechin, the only morphological change was a weak dilatation of the sarcoplasmic reticulum. We conclude that catechin and vitamin E significantly reduce idarubicin-induced cardiotoxicity in rats. <![CDATA[<B>Determination of anaerobic threshold in rats using the lactate minimum test</B>]]> The break point of the curve of blood lactate vs exercise load has been called anaerobic threshold (AT) and is considered to be an important indicator of endurance exercise capacity in human subjects. There are few studies of AT determination in animals. We describe a protocol for AT determination by the "lactate minimum test" in rats during swimming exercise. The test is based on the premise that during an incremental exercise test, and after a bout of maximal exercise, blood lactate decreases to a minimum and then increases again. This minimum value indicates the intensity of the AT. Adult male (90 days) Wistar rats adapted to swimming for 2 weeks were used. The initial state of lactic acidosis was obtained by making the animals jump into the water and swim while carrying a load equivalent to 50% of body weight for 6 min (30-s exercise interrupted by a 30-s rest). After a 9-min rest, blood was collected and the incremental swimming test was started. The test consisted of swimming while supporting loads of 4.5, 5.0, 5.5, 6.0 and 7.0% of body weight. Each exercise load lasted 5 min and was followed by a 30-s rest during which blood samples were taken. The blood lactate minimum was determined from a zero-gradient tangent to a spline function fitting the blood lactate vs workload curve. AT was estimated to be 4.95 ± 0.10% of body weight while interpolated blood lactate was 7.17 ± 0.16 mmol/l. These results suggest the application of AT determination in animal studies concerning metabolism during exercise. <![CDATA[<B>Measuring higher order optical aberrations of the human eye</B>: <B>techniques and applications</B>]]> In the present paper we discuss the development of "wave-front", an instrument for determining the lower and higher optical aberrations of the human eye. We also discuss the advantages that such instrumentation and techniques might bring to the ophthalmology professional of the 21st century. By shining a small light spot on the retina of subjects and observing the light that is reflected back from within the eye, we are able to quantitatively determine the amount of lower order aberrations (astigmatism, myopia, hyperopia) and higher order aberrations (coma, spherical aberration, etc.). We have measured artificial eyes with calibrated ametropia ranging from +5 to -5 D, with and without 2 D astigmatism with axis at 45º and 90º. We used a device known as the Hartmann-Shack (HS) sensor, originally developed for measuring the optical aberrations of optical instruments and general refracting surfaces in astronomical telescopes. The HS sensor sends information to a computer software for decomposition of wave-front aberrations into a set of Zernike polynomials. These polynomials have special mathematical properties and are more suitable in this case than the traditional Seidel polynomials. We have demonstrated that this technique is more precise than conventional autorefraction, with a root mean square error (RMSE) of less than 0.1 µm for a 4-mm diameter pupil. In terms of dioptric power this represents an RMSE error of less than 0.04 D and 5º for the axis. This precision is sufficient for customized corneal ablations, among other applications.