Understanding the three-dimensional (3D) morphology of the spinal cord microvasculature has been limited by the lack of an effective high-resolution imaging technique. In this study, synchrotron radiation microcomputed tomography (SRµCT), a novel imaging technique based on absorption imaging, was evaluated with regard to the detection of the 3D morphology of the rat spinal cord microvasculature.
Ten Sprague-Dawley rats were used in this ex vivo study. After contrast agent perfusion, their spinal cords were isolated and scanned using conventional x-rays, conventional micro-CT (CµCT), and SRµCT.
Based on contrast agent perfusion, the microvasculature of the rat spinal cord was clearly visualized for the first time ex vivo in 3D by means of SRµCT scanning. Compared to conventional imaging techniques, SRµCT achieved higher resolution 3D vascular imaging, with the smallest vessel that could be distinguished approximately 7.4 μm in diameter. Additionally, a 3D pseudocolored image of the spinal cord microvasculature was generated in a single session of SRµCT imaging, which was conducive to detailed observation of the vessel morphology.
The results of this study indicated that SRµCT scanning could provide higher resolution images of the vascular network of the spinal cord. This modality also has the potential to serve as a powerful imaging tool for the investigation of morphology changes in the 3D angioarchitecture of the neurovasculature in preclinical research.