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Imaging coronary artery microstructure using second-harmonic and two-photon fluorescence microscopy.


The microstructural basis for the mechanical properties of blood vessels has not been directly determined because of the lack of a nondestructive method that yields a three-dimensional view of these vascular wall constituents. Here, we demonstrate that multiphoton microscopy can be used to visualize the microstructural basis of blood vessel mechanical properties, by combining mechanical testing (distension) of excised porcine coronary arteries with simultaneous two-photon excited fluorescence and second-harmonic generation microscopy. Our results show that second-harmonic generation signals derived from collagen can be spectrally isolated from elastin and smooth muscle cell two-photon fluorescence. Two-photon fluorescence signals can be further characterized by emission maxima at 495 nm and 520 nm, corresponding to elastin and cellular contributions, respectively. Two-dimensional reconstructions of spectrally fused images permit high-resolution visualization of collagen and elastin fibrils and smooth muscle cells from intima to adventitia. These structural features are confirmed by coregistration of multiphoton microscopy images with conventional histology. Significant changes in mean fibril thickness and overall wall dimension were observed when comparing no load (zero transmural pressure) and zero-stress conditions to 30 and 180 mmHg distension pressures. Overall, these data suggest that multiphoton microscopy is a highly sensitive and promising technique for studying the morphometric properties of the microstructure of the blood vessel wall.

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