Phosphotungstic acid (PTA) preferentially binds to collagen- rich regions of porcine carotid arteries and human atherosclerotic plaques observed using contrast enhanced micro-computed tomography (CE-µCT)

Front Physiol. 2023 Feb 2;14:1057394. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2023.1057394. eCollection 2023.


Background and aims: Atherosclerotic plaque rupture in the carotid artery can cause small emboli to travel to cerebral arteries, causing blockages and preventing blood flow leading to stroke. Contrast enhanced micro computed tomography (CEμCT) using a novel stain, phosphotungstic acid (PTA) can provide insights into the microstructure of the vessel wall and atherosclerotic plaque, and hence their likelihood to rupture. Furthermore, it has been suggested that collagen content and orientation can be related to mechanical integrity. This study aims to build on existing literature and establish a robust and reproducible staining and imaging technique to non-destructively quantify the collagen content within arteries and plaques as an alternative to routine histology. Methods: Porcine carotid arteries and human atherosclerotic plaques were stained with a concentration of 1% PTA staining solution and imaged using MicroCT to establish the in situ architecture of the tissue and measure collagen content. A histological assessment of the collagen content was also performed from picrosirius red (PSR) staining. Results: PTA stained arterial samples highlight the reproducibility of the PTA staining and MicroCT imaging technique used with a quantitative analysis showing a positive correlation between the collagen content measured from CEμCT and histology. Furthermore, collagen-rich areas can be clearly visualised in both the vessel wall and atherosclerotic plaque. 3D reconstruction was also performed showing that different layers of the vessel wall and various atherosclerotic plaque components can be differentiated using Hounsfield Unit (HU) values. Conclusion: The work presented here is unique as it offers a quantitative method of segmenting the vessel wall into its individual components and non-destructively quantifying the collagen content within these tissues, whilst also delivering a visual representation of the fibrous structure using a single contrast agent.

PMID:36818446 | PMC:PMC9932683 | DOI:10.3389/fphys.2023.1057394


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