Fast new method for mapping blood vessels may aid cancer research

Oct 31, 2011
Complex network of blood vessels in the mouse brain imaged by knife-edge scanning microscopy. The image represents an area about 2.9 millimeters across. Credit: Biomedical Optics Express

Like normal tissue, tumors thrive on nutrients carried to them by the blood stream. The rapid growth of new blood vessels is a hallmark of cancer, and studies have shown that preventing blood vessel growth can keep tumors from growing, too. To better understand the relationship between cancer and the vascular system, researchers would like to make detailed maps of the complete network of blood vessels in organs. Unfortunately, the current mapping process is time-consuming: using conventional methods, mapping a one-centimeter block of tissue can take months.

In a paper published in the October issue of the Optical Society's open-access journal Biomedical , computational neuroscientists at Texas A&M University, along with collaborators at the University of Illinois and Kettering University, describe a new system, tested in mouse brain samples, that substantially reduces that time.

The method uses a technique called knife-edge scanning microscopy (KESM). First, blood vessels are filled with ink, and the whole brain sample is embedded in plastic. Next, the plastic block is placed onto an automated vertically moving stage. A diamond knife shaves a very thin slice – one micrometer or less – off the top of the block, imaging the sample line by line at the tip of the knife.

Reconstruction of a small section from the previous image, showing the relative thickness of each blood vessel in the network (color-coded by thickness). The area depicted in the image is about 0.275 millimeters across. Credit: Biomedical Optics Express

Each tiny movement of the stage triggers the camera to take a picture. In this way, the researchers can get the full 3-D structure of the mouse brain's vascular network – from arteries and veins down to the smallest capillaries – in less than two days at full production speed. In the future the team plans to augment the process with fluorescence imaging, which will allow researchers to link brain structure to function.

Explore further: Physicists develop miniature Raman laser sensors for single nanoparticle detection

More information: "Fast macro-scale transmission imaging of microvascular networks using KESM," Biomedical Optics Express, Mayerich et al., Vol. 2, Issue 10, pp. 2888-2896 (2011).

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Human vascular system in mice

Apr 14, 2008

Tumors use the body's blood system for their own purposes: They stimulate the growth of blood vessels that supply the tumor. Medical treatment blocks this process in order to restrain tumors. Scientists of ...

Bioengineers create stable networks of blood vessels

Feb 28, 2006

Yale biomedical engineers have created an implantable system that can form and stabilize a functional network of fine blood vessels critical for supporting tissues in the body, according to a report in the ...

Recommended for you

Researchers develop powerful, silicon-based laser

Sep 29, 2014

A silicon-based laser that lases up to a record 111°C, with a threshold current density of 200 A/cm2 and an output power exceeding 100 mW at room temperature, has been demonstrated by collaborating researcher ...

Predicting landslides with light

Sep 29, 2014

Optical fiber sensors are used around the world to monitor the condition of difficult-to-access segments of infrastructure—such as the underbellies of bridges, the exterior walls of tunnels, the feet of dams, long pipelines ...

Studies in laser physics help understand rogue waves

Sep 29, 2014

(Phys.org) —University of Auckland physicist Dr Miro Erkintalo is part of an international team investigating how lasers and optical fibres can be used to understand freakishly large waves on the ocean.

User comments : 0