American Review of Respiratory Disease

We examined the effects of starvation on lung structure in rats allowed only one fifth of their measured daily food consumption until they lost 40% of their initial body weight, and evaluated volume-pressure relationships in saline-filled lungs, lung morphometric and connective tissue morphologic features and lung ultrastructure by scanning electron microscopy. Compared with rats fed full rations, the volume-pressure curve was shifted upward and to the left and the chord compliance was significantly increased. In the starved rats, enlargement of air spaces and alveolar wall destruction was associated with a significant increase in mean linear intercept and a decrease in internal surface area. Elastic fibers appeared short, irregular, and fewer in number in starved lungs. Scanning electron microscopy showed enlarged air spaces, thin, irregular, and effaced alveolar walls, and an increased number and size of interalveolar pores in the starved group. We concluded that starvation results in mechanical and morphologic changes in the lung similar to those seen in emphysema, and that starved lung may be a useful experimental model for the study of emphysema.

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