A method for the quantification of the pressure dependent 3D collagen configuration in the arterial adventitia
Collagen plays an important role in the response of the arterial wall to mechanical loading and presumably has a load-bearing function preventing overdistension. Collagen configuration is important for understanding this role, in particular in mathematical models of arterial wall mechanics. In this study a new method is presented to image and quantify this configuration. Collagen in the arterial adventitia is stained with CNA35, and imaged in situ at high resolution with confocal microscopy at luminal pressures from 0 to 140 mm Hg. The images are processed with a new automatic approach, utilizing techniques intended for MRI-DTI data. Collagen configuration is quantified through three parameters: the waviness, the transmural angle and the helical angle. The method is demonstrated for the case of carotid arteries of the white New Zealand rabbit. The waviness indicated a gradual straightening between 40 and 80 mm Hg. The transmural angle was about zero indicating that the fibers stayed within an axial-circumferential plane at all pressures. The helical angle was characterized by a symmetrical distribution around the axial direction, indicating a double symmetrical helix. The method is the first to combine high resolution imaging with a new automatic image processing approach to quantify the 3D configuration of collagen in the adventitia as a function of pressure. (C) 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.