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INTRODUCTION: Epidermal growth factor (EGF) affects epithelial cell proliferation, differentiation and migration in the gastrointestinal tract of experimental animals, and increases proliferation when given intravenously to children with congenital microvillous atrophy or necrotising enteritis. The aim of the present study is to determine whether EGF receptors (EGFR) are present in the gut epithelium of preterm infants, and to discover whether neonatal necrotising enterocolitis (NEC) is associated with the absence of EGFR from mucosal cells. METHODS: Tissues were taken from involved colon and small intestine of four preterm infants with NEC, and control tissues were taken from four other neonates who had laparatomies for congenital malformations. Sections of the tissues were examined histopathologically after treatment with a monoclonal antibody against the external domain of the EGFR (Zymed Laboratories, San Francisco, CA, USA). RESULTS: Histopathological examination confirmed diagnosis of NEC in the involved bowel and controls showed appearance within normal limit. Immunoreactive EGFR were present on the epithelial cells of both the colon and small intestine, localised on the basolateral membrane of the cells of both subject and the controls. There was no apparent reduction in expression compared with controls. CONCLUSION: NEC in preterm infants is not associated with absence of EGFR. The presence of EGFR in gut epithelial cells raises the possibility of using EGF for prophylaxis or treatment of NEC.

Original publication




Journal article


Early Hum Dev

Publication Date





1 - 9


Enterocolitis, Necrotizing, Epithelial Cells, ErbB Receptors, Female, Humans, Immunohistochemistry, Infant, Newborn, Infant, Premature, Intestinal Mucosa, Intestine, Large, Intestine, Small, Male