The histological changes in 95 jejunal biopsy specimens from children have been analyzed by a new mporphometric technique. The microscope image of the specimen is traced directly onto computer data cards. A simple sketch records accurate quantitative data in a matrix of 840 points, retaining the spatial arrangement of the tissue components. The data are fed via an optical mark data card reader, into a mini-computer. FORTRAN IV programs allow calculation of surface area, villous heights, and component volumes in metric units, and of volume proportions, volume-to-volume ratios, and surface-to-volume ratios. Pictorial and numerical printouts are produced, which are suitable for inclusion in the patient's notes. Jejunal biopsies from 37 controls and 26 untreated coeliac patients were clearly distinguished morphometrically. Sixteen pairs of biopsies from coeliac patients on long-term gluten-free diets before, and 12 weeks after, the reintroduction of dietary gluten significantly reflected the effects of gluten challenge. Comparison of control and abnormal biopsies showed a spatial redistribution of the components, more than a change in their absolute amounts. There was no significant differences in the total epithelial volumes in controls, treated or untreated patients, suggesting that the mucosal lesion in coeliac disease is not a true atrophy.
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