Two groups of male Fisher 344 rats (young: 4 months old; aged: 25 months old) underwent either 70% distal small bowel resection or sham operation (small bowel transection). Rats from each treatment group of each age were sacrificed on the 10th (N=15: young rats;N=13: aged rats) or 20th (N=15: young;N=13: aged) postoperative day (POD), and the duodenal mucosa was weighed and assayed for DNA, RNA, and protein contents, as well as for specific activities of the disaccharidase, sucrase, maltase, and lactase. Compared to the sham operation, distal small bowel resection significantly increased DNA by 48%, RNA by 122%, and protein by 75% in young rats and DNA by 40%, RNA by 92%, and protein by 71% in aged rats on the 20th POD. Both young and aged rats showed similar adaptive hyperplasia on the 10th POD. On the 20th POD after distal small bowel resection, specific activities of all tested enzymes were significantly increased in young rats (sucrase +86%, maltase +110% and lactase +64%), but showed no significant changes in aged rats. These findings suggest that the duodenum of aged rats may have sufficient proliferative potential to respond to distal small bowel resection, but that the mechanisms governing return of function in response to distal small bowel resection are inhibited in aged rats, compared to those mechanisms in the young.
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