Three-dimensional quantification of capillary networks in healthy and cancerous tissues of two mice

S. Lang, B. Müller, M.D. Dominietto, P.C. Cattin, I. Zanette, T. Weitkamp, S.E. Hieber
Microvascular research 84, 314-322
Graphical abstract: 

A key issue in developing strategies against diseases such as cancer is the analysis of the vessel tree in comparison to the healthy one. In the search for parameters that might be characteristic for tumor capillaries we study the vascularization in mice for cancerous and healthy tissues using synchrotron radiation-based micro computed tomography in absorption and phase contrast modes. Our investigations are based on absorption tomograms of casted healthy and cancerous tissues as well as a phase tomogram of a fixated tumor. We demonstrate how the voxel-based tomography data can be vectorized to assess the capillary networks quantitatively. The processing includes segmentation, skeletonization, and vectorization to finally extract the vessel parameters. The mean diameter of capillaries in healthy and cancerous tissues corresponds to (8.0 ± 1.1) μm and (3.9 ± 1.1) μm, respectively. Further evaluated parameters show marginal or no differences between capillaries in healthy and cancerous tissues, namely fractal dimension 2.3 ± 0.3 vs. 2.3 ± 0.2, tortuosity (SOAM) 0.18 rad/μm vs. 0.24 rad/μm and vessel length 20 μm vs. 17 μm. The bifurcation angles exhibit a narrow distribution around 115°. Furthermore, we show that phase tomography is a powerful alternative to absorption tomography of casts for the vessel visualization omitting any invasive specimen preparation procedure.