Iodine-enhanced micro-computed tomography of atherosclerotic plaque morphology complements conventional histology
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BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Visualization of arterial lesions in situ can enhance understanding of atherosclerosis progression and potentially improve experimental therapies. Conventional histology methods for assessing atherosclerotic lesions are robust but are destructive and may prevent further tissue analysis. The objective of the current study was to evaluate a novel, nondestructive method for visualization and characterization of atherosclerotic lesions as an alternative or complementary to routine histology. Thus, we tested the hypothesis that micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) paired with an iodine-based radiopaque stain would effectively characterize atherosclerotic plaques in a manner comparable to routine histology while maintaining sample integrity and providing whole-volume data. METHODS: We examined porcine coronary arteries with varying degrees of atherosclerosis, using micro-CT in the absence and presence of iohexol (240 mgI/ml). Following iohexol washout, routine histological assessment of the samples was performed with hematoxylin and eosin and Masson's trichrome. RESULTS: Iohexol staining generated soft tissue delineation and subsequent atherosclerotic plaque assessment via augmented radiopacity, permitting three-dimensional (3D) reconstruction of these lesions, maintaining in situ architecture. Although plaque distribution and arterial wall tissue layers were discernible, micro-CT was incapable of discriminating cell types comprising the plaque. Calcium phosphate deposition was readily located and visualized in 3D space, independent of iohexol. CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study establish micro-CT, combined with a diffusible radiopaque contrast agent, as a powerful imaging modality for visualizing in situ architecture of atherosclerotic plaques. Our findings demonstrate that micro-CT can be used to identify plaque distribution and calcium deposition complementary to routine histological analysis.
author list (cited authors)
Self, T. S., Ginn-Hedman, A., Kaulfus, C. N., Newell-Fugate, A. E., Weeks, B. R., & Heaps, C. L.