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BACKGROUND - Two-dimensional measures of vascular architecture provide incomplete information about vascular structure. This study applied a novel rigorous method for 3D microCT-based analysis of total and cortical renal vasculature combined with a novel method to isolate and quantify the number of perfused glomeruli to assess vascular changes in eNOS-/- mice.
METHODS - Two month old male wildtype and eNOS-/- mice were perfused with heparinized saline followed by radiopaque Microfil. The Microfil-perfused vasculature of excised kidneys was imaged by μCT with an isotropic voxel-size of 5.0 μm. For analysis of renal cortical vasculature, a custom algorithm was created to define the cortical volume of interest (VOI) as the entire volume within 600 μm of the renal surface. Vessel thickness in the whole kidney or renal cortex was analyzed by plotting the distribution of vascular volume at each measured thickness and examining differences between the genotypes at individual thicknesses. A second image processing algorithm was created to isolate, identify, and extract contrast perfused glomeruli from the cortical vessels.
RESULTS - Fractional vascular volume (vascular volume/kidney volume; VV/KV) and Vessel Number/mm (V.N) were significantly lower in eNOS-/- mice vs. WT (p < 0.05). eNOS-/- kidneys had significantly fewer perfusable vessels vs. WT in the range of 20-40 μm in thickness. The cortex of eNOS-/- kidneys had significantly lower VV, VV/cortical volume, and V.N, with an increase in the distance between vessels (all p < 0.05). The total volume of vessels in the range of 20-30 μm was significantly lower in the cortex of eNOS-/- mice compared to WT (p < 0.05). Moreover, the total number of perfused glomeruli was significantly decreased in eNOS-/- mice (p < 0.01).
CONCLUSIONS - The methods presented here demonstrate a new method to analyze contrast enhanced μCT images for vascular phenotyping of the murine kidney. These data also demonstrate that kidneys in eNOS-/- mice have severe defects in vascular perfusion/structure in the renal cortex.