Effect of starvation and refeeding on biochemical and immunological status of Balb/c mice: An experimental model of malnutrition

Faculty of Natural Sciences, Center for Studies on Industrial Biotechnology, University of Oriente, Ave. Patricio Lumumba s/n, Santiago de Cuba 5, CP 90500, Cuba.
Immunopharmacology and Immunotoxicology (Impact Factor: 1.2). 11/2010; 33(3):438-46. DOI: 10.3109/08923973.2010.531732
Source: PubMed


Although new methods for the induction of malnutrition disorders in laboratory animals have been developed, the bulk of the models described in the literature are essentially based on dietary restriction/starvation principle. In this context, little data are available about the metabolic and the immune system parameters of Balb/c mice under starvation/refeeding.
This study examined the effects of starvation and refeeding on the biochemical and immunological status of undernourished Balb/c mice.
Female Balb/c mice, weighing 20 g, were starved for 3 days and then refed with commercial pelleted diet for 8 days. The variables considered were as follows: body weight; serum protein and amino acid concentrations; liver protein content, and cholinesterase and arginase activities; jejunal protein and DNA contents as well as oligosaccharidase levels; hematological parameters (bone marrow and peripheral blood cellularity); peritoneal macrophage activation; and humoral and cell-mediated immune functions.
Profound alterations in both biochemical and immunological conditions appeared after the starvation period. Refeeding resulted in the normalization of serum albumin levels, the intestinal DNA content and the gut-mucosal associated enzymatic activities, the blood lymphocyte counts, and the number of peritoneal macrophages. The markers of liver metabolic function (cholinesterase and arginase activities), and those of bone marrow hemopoiesis and the adaptive immune response (T-dependent antibody titres and delayed-type hypersensitivity response) remained altered after refeeding compared with control mice.
These findings suggest that fasted mice can be used as an animal model of acute starvation that might prove useful in evaluating the effectiveness of nutritional and immunopharmacological interventions.

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