A computational tool for quantitative analysis of vascular networks

PLoS One. 2011;6(11):e27385. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0027385. Epub 2011 Nov 16.


Angiogenesis is the generation of mature vascular networks from pre-existing vessels. Angiogenesis is crucial during the organism' development, for wound healing and for the female reproductive cycle. Several murine experimental systems are well suited for studying developmental and pathological angiogenesis. They include the embryonic hindbrain, the post-natal retina and allantois explants. In these systems vascular networks are visualised by appropriate staining procedures followed by microscopical analysis. Nevertheless, quantitative assessment of angiogenesis is hampered by the lack of readily available, standardized metrics and software analysis tools. Non-automated protocols are being used widely and they are, in general, time--and labour intensive, prone to human error and do not permit computation of complex spatial metrics. We have developed a light-weight, user friendly software, AngioTool, which allows for quick, hands-off and reproducible quantification of vascular networks in microscopic images. AngioTool computes several morphological and spatial parameters including the area covered by a vascular network, the number of vessels, vessel length, vascular density and lacunarity. In addition, AngioTool calculates the so-called "branching index" (branch points/unit area), providing a measurement of the sprouting activity of a specimen of interest. We have validated AngioTool using images of embryonic murine hindbrains, post-natal retinas and allantois explants. AngioTool is open source and can be downloaded free of charge.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Allantois / blood supply
  • Allantois / cytology
  • Animals
  • Blood Vessels / cytology*
  • Blood Vessels / drug effects
  • Blood Vessels / physiology*
  • Chromones / pharmacology
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Mice
  • Molecular Imaging
  • Morpholines / pharmacology
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic / drug effects
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retina / physiology
  • Rhombencephalon / blood supply
  • Software*
  • User-Computer Interface


  • Chromones
  • Morpholines
  • 2-(4-morpholinyl)-8-phenyl-4H-1-benzopyran-4-one