II. Gastric motility: lessons from mutant mice on slow waves and innervation
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The stomach harbors a network of interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) associated with Auerbach's plexus as well as intramuscular ICC within the muscle layers that make close apposition contact with nerve varicosities. ICC are critical for slow-wave generation, making ICC the pacemaker cells of the gut, allowing rhythmic peristaltic motor patterns in the mid- and distal stomach. ICC also play a role in neurotransmission, but its importance relative to direct muscle innervation is still under investigation. The role of ICC in many control functions of gastric motility in humans needs further examination. The pathophysiology of ICC in disease can be partially assessed by immunohistochemistry and electron microscopy on tissue samples. Electrogastrogram measurements may also play a role, but this technique needs further refinement. Communication between ICC and muscle may involve electrical coupling, metabolic coupling through gap junctions, or secretion of nitric oxide or carbon monoxide.
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