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Neuronal pancreatic depopulation in chronic Chagas' disease patients

We have not found any anatomical studies about the intrapancreatic ganglia in the chronic Chagas' disease. The lesions in these structures could explain at least in part the functional disturbances in the exocrine and endocrine pancreas described in this form of the disease. Thus we decided to morphologically analyze these ganglia. For this analysis, we studied transversal segments of the head, body and tail of the pancreas of twelve chronic chagasics whose mean age were 46,5 ± 9,1 years and fourteen controls, mean age 41,2 ± 11,0 years. These segments were histologically processed and cut into sections in a seriate form up to the end and one cut of each seven was analyzed. For statistical analysis we used the non-parametric test of Mann-Whitney. In the head of the pancreas, the mean count of neurons was 57,3 ± 50,8 in the chagasic group and 117,5 ± 99,0 for the control group (p < 0,05); in the body 25,9 ± 19,4 for the chagasic group and 54,7 ± 47,8 for the control group (p < 0,05); in the tail 23,4 ± 16,3 for the chagasic group and 54,1 ± 29,2 for the control group (p < 0,01), the total count being 106,6 ± 71,1 for the chagasic group and 226,3 ± 156,5 for the controls (p < 0,01). Our data permitted us to conclude that: a) there was a statistically significant neuronal depopulation in the chagasic group, as compared to the control group, in each pancreatic segment that was analyzed, as well as in the organ as a whole; b) 50% of the cagasics had the total number of neurons smaller than the lowest number observed in the controls (80); c) 75% and 91.6% of the chagasics had the number of neurons smaller than, respectively, the median (171) and the mean (226) of the control group; d) therefore, the pancreatic neuronal depopulation was common, but not constant; e) the variable age was apparently not responsible for the neuronal depopulation of the chagasics.

Chagas' disease; Intrapancreatic ganglia; Pancreatic innervation; South-American trypanosomiasis

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