Old age is associated with a higher incidence of lower bowel conditions such as constipation. Recent evidence suggest that colonic motility may be influenced by enteric glial cells (EGCs). Little is known about the effect of aging on the subpopulation of EGCs in the human colon. We assessed and compared the pattern of distribution of EGCs in adult and elderly human colon. Human descending colon were obtained from 23 cancer patients comprising of adults (23–63 years; 6 male, 7 female) and elderly (66–81 year; 6 male, 4 female). Specimens were serially-sectioned and immunolabeled with anti-Sox-10, anti-S100 and anti-GFAP for morphometric analysis. Standardized procedures were utilized to ensure unbiased counting and densitometric evaluation of EGCs. The number of Sox-10 immunoreactive (IR) EGCs were unaltered with age in both the myenteric plexus (MP) (respectively, in adult and elderly patients, 1939 ± 82 and 1760 ± 44/mm length; p > .05) and submucosal plexus; there were no apparent differences between adult males and females. The density of S100-IR EGCs declined among the elderly in the circular muscle and within the MP per ganglionic area. In the adult colon, there were more S100-IR EGCs distributed in the circular muscle per unit area than the Taenia coli. There was little or no GFAP-IR EGCs in both adult and elderly colon. We concluded that aging of the human descending colon does not result in a loss of Sox-10-IR EGCs in the MP and SMP but reduces S100-IR EGCs density within the musculature. This alteration in myenteric EGCs density with age may contribute to colonic dysfunction.
- aging, circular muscle, enteric glial cells, GFAP, human colon, myenteric plexus, S-100, Sox-10, Taenia coli