Tandem scanning confocal microscopy (TSCM) of normal and ischemic living kidneys

Am J Anat. 1991 May;191(1):95-102. doi: 10.1002/aja.1001910110.


Tandem Scanning Confocal Microscopy (TSCM) allows one to section optically into and record real-time images of living organs and tissues in a noninvasive fashion. In this paper, we will present some initial TSCM observations of subcapsular nephrons in the living, intact kidneys of Munich-Wistar rats and evaluate the nephron's responses to temporary ischemia and to intravenous infusion of mannitol. The rats were anesthetized with Inactin and a laparotomy performed to expose the kidneys. Using a TSCM equipped with a 20 x water-immersion objective, we optically sectioned through the intact kidney capsule and recorded real-time images of living subcapsular glomeruli and uriniferous tubules. The proximal tubule brush border was highly reflective and allowed us to distinguish between the first and second segments of the proximal tubules as well as the distal tubules. Cellular elements of the blood could be seen passing rapidly through peritubular capillaries and individual glomerular capillary loops. With fluorescent filters in place, intravenously injected carboxyfluorescein was seen to pass through the glomerular capillary loops and then progressively through the different segments of the uriniferous tubules. Ligation of the renal artery resulted in rapid swelling of proximal tubule cells into the tubular lumens, loss of reflectiveness of the microvillous brush borders, and closure of the peritubular capillary spaces. Upon release of the ligature, the proximal tubule lumens again became patent, often opening up abruptly and in a zipper-like fashion down the length of the tubules. Increasing the glomerular filtration rate by intravenous infusion of mannitol resulted in increases in tubular luminal and perimeter dimensions. Mannitol also acted as an effective impermeant osmotic agent and prevented most of the cellular swelling which was otherwise seen in response to renal ischemia.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fluoresceins
  • Glomerular Filtration Rate / drug effects
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Ischemia / pathology*
  • Ischemia / prevention & control
  • Kidney / blood supply
  • Kidney / drug effects
  • Kidney / ultrastructure*
  • Kidney Diseases / pathology*
  • Kidney Diseases / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Mannitol / administration & dosage
  • Mannitol / pharmacology
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning / methods
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains


  • Fluoresceins
  • 6-carboxyfluorescein
  • Mannitol