Artificial formula induces precocious maturation of the small intestine of artificially reared suckling rats

B. Dvorak, D. L. McWilliam, C. S. Williams, J. A. Dominguez, N. W. Machen, R. S. McCuskey, Anthony F Philipps

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Background: The artificially reared rat model was used successfully to study the effect of nutrition during the early postnatal period on growth and development of the neonate. Over-growth and morphologic changes of the gastrointestinal tract are known consequences of artificial rearing. The major goal of our study was to elucidate whether artificial rearing-enhanced gut development is caused by artificial diet or by gastrostomy and the artificial rearing technique itself. Methods: Suckling rats at day 8 of age underwent intragastric cannulation and were machine fed either a cow's milk-based artificial rat's milk substitute or pooled rat's milk for 4 days. Dam-fed littermates served as a control. Results: Body growth did not differ in the three experimental groups. In rats receiving rat's milk substitute, small intestinal wet weight was approximately 60% greater than in rats fed rat's milk or control rats. Additionally, the entire small intestine was approximately 20% longer in the rat's milk substitute group. Morphologically, rat's milk substitute-fed pups demonstrated significantly greater intestinal villus length and crypt depth compared with rat's milk-fed or control rats. Jejunum and mid-jejunum of the rat's milk and control groups did not differ in these parameters. Intestinal sucrase activity of rat's milk substitute-fed rats was significantly elevated compared with rat's milk-fed rats or control animals. Conclusions: These results indicate that cow's milk-based formula, not gastrostomy or artificial feeding technique, is a principal cause of the small intestine overgrowth and precocious maturation of some intestinal functions observed in artificially reared sucklings. (C) 2000 Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)162-169
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition
Issue numberSUPPL. 2
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Artificial rearing
  • Gastrointestinal tract
  • Infant nutrition
  • Rat's milk
  • Small intestine
  • Suckling rats

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology
  • Histology
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Food Science
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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