The effects of administering a single dose of (200 mg to 50 mg/kg body weight) aspirin or an equimolar mixture of aspirin (200 mg/kg body wt) with sodium bicarbonate on the fine structure of the rat gastric mucosa were investigated in order to establish the role of particles of the drug in the development of gastric damage. The sequence of cellular events involved in the development of a lesion and the influence of short-term starvation were also investigated. Aspirin-bicarbonate solutions produced much less damage in starved rats than aspirin suspensions given at low (50 mg/kg body weight) or high therapeutic doses (200 mg/kg body weight). Also, when non-starved rats were given 200 mg/kg aspirin, only slight damage was observed. The presence of particles of the drug in intimate contact with the mucosa is thus important in the development of gastric damage. A sequence of events with time involving direct physical exfoliation of mucosal cells and selective structural damage to parietal cells followed by structural damage indicative of a disturbance to oxidative and biosynthetic functions in cells near the developing erosion was observed. The implications of these results on the development of aspirin-induced lesions are discussed.
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