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Electron microscopy of Crotalaria pulmonary hypertension
  1. J. M. Kay,
  2. Paul Smith,
  3. Donald Heath
  1. Department of Pathology, University of Liverpool


    The lungs of 11 rats fed on Crotalaria spectabilis seeds for periods ranging from 12 to 61 days were examined by both light and electron microscopy. The findings were compared with those obtained from nine control rats given a normal diet. Eight of the 11 test rats showed morphological evidence of pulmonary arterial hypertension in the form of right ventricular hypertrophy; the exceptions were rats killed after receiving the Crotalaria diet for 12, 22, and 29 days respectively. On light microscopy, all the test rats showed exudative lesions in the lungs consisting of eosinophilic alveolar coagulum, intra-alveolar haemorrhage, interstitial fibrosis, and a proliferation of mast cells. Enlarged and proliferated cells were seen to line the alveolar walls or lie free within the alveolar spaces. Electron microscopy showed these cells to be enlarged granular pneumocytes containing enlarged, electron-dense, lamellar secretory inclusions. Scanty macrophages were also seen in the alveolar spaces, in which excessive numbers of myelin figures and lattices were seen: these structures resembled phospholipid membranes and were probably related to pulmonary surfactant. We think that proliferation of granular pneumocytes is a non-specific reaction of the alveolar walls to injury. The alveolar-capillary wall showed interstitial oedema with the formation of intraluminal endothelial vesicles, probably representing the early ultrastructural phase of pulmonary oedema, and more likely to be an effect of the pulmonary hypertension than its cause.

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