Six weanling rats were fed a diet containing 0.4 per cent BAPN fumarate and sacrificed after 5 to 33 days on the diet. The ascending aortae were fixed with OsO4, embedded in methacrylate and araldite, sectioned, stained with lead hydroxide, and examined with the electron microscope. The descending thoracic aortae were examined by light microscopy.
Compared with pair-fed controls, the experimentals showed definite changes which became more marked as the disease progressed. The wall became thicker with wider interlaminar spaces, radial orientation of the smooth muscle cells, progressive loss of desmosomes, and progressive increase in a dense, finely stippled material that coated the edges of the elastic laminae and extended outwards between the muscle cells and separated the ends of these cells from the laminae. This stippled material occurred at the same sites as the increase in PAS-positive and azan-positive material seen with the light microscope. There was an increase in subendothelial and interlaminar collagen, and electron microscopy clearly showed that the cells were smooth muscle and not fibroblasts.
The possible bearing of the morphological changes on the formation of aortic aneurysms is discussed.