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Cells staining intensely blue with Nile blue sulphate are a striking feature of some human atherosclerotic lesions, and it has been suggested that they are “phospholipid-containing macrophages”. Nile blue cells were isolated by microdissection from 24 raised lesions and their extracted lipids were compared with the lipids in adjacent tissue samples. No large amount of phospholipid could be demonstrated; the concentration of phospholipid was only slightly greater than the concentration in fibrous tissue and was less than that in other fat-filled cells.
The Nile blue staining material was fluorescent, acid fast, sudanophilic and resistant to extraction by lipid solvents and thus in many respects resembled lipofuscin. Rings of Nile blue staining material partly obscured by the amorphous lipid were revealed on extraction of sections with methanol : chloroform (50 : 50, v/v).
The distribution of Nile blue cells was related to morphology rather than to age. They were not found in normal intima at any age (157 samples, age range 12–70) but occurred in 87% of atherosclerotic lesions with thick fibrous caps. By contrast, in fatty streaks and plaques containing numerous fat-filled cells they occurred in only 20–25% of samples.
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Received: April 14, 1971
☆This work was wholly supported by the British Heart Foundation to whom the authors are extremely grateful.
© 1971 Published by Elsevier Inc.