Acetone is one of the most commonly used industrial solvents. Recent literature indicated that in guinea pigs, but not rabbits, acetone is cataractogenic and that elevated acetone exposure is also associated with depressed aqueous ascorbate levels. Other work indicated that aqueous and lens levels of ascorbate are closely linked and that depressed ascorbate status is related to cataract. Taken together, these papers suggested that acetone exposure, depressed ascorbate levels, and cataract are related, possibly causally. While the possibility that acetone is cataractogenic presented a major health concern, it also presented an opportunity to develop a new model of cataract in which hypotheses regarding anticataractogenic effects of ascorbate could be tested. Albino hairless guinea pigs are immunocompetent animals derived from albino Hartley guinea pigs. Animals were fed diets containing low (4.9 mg/day) and high (55 mg/day) levels of ascorbate. This resulted in distinct groups of animals, one with high tissue ascorbate levels and the other with low, but nonscorbutic ascorbate levels. The tissue levels of ascorbate and the relationship between tissue ascorbate levels and dietary intake indicate that with respect to ascorbate uptake, transport, and concentration, these animals are identical to the standard albino Hartley animals. Daily exposure to acetone was extended for 6 months, with a total applied dose of 65 ml. Absorption of the solvent was maximized by the use of hairless animals. Despite exposure of the animals to higher levels of acetone, in no case (n = 20) were cataracts observed over a 2-year period. This is consistent with results using rabbits. The data show that the hairless guinea pig is a fine model for studies in which ascorbate bioavailability is of importance. However, other models to test the cataractogenic potential of acetone and anticataract effects of ascorbate are needed.

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