Rat airway morphometry measured from in situ MRI-based geometric models

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2012 Jun;112(11):1921-31. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00018.2012. Epub 2012 Mar 29.


Rodents have been widely used to study the environmental or therapeutic impact of inhaled particles. Knowledge of airway morphometry is essential in assessing geometric influence on aerosol deposition and in developing accurate lung models of aerosol transport. Previous morphometric studies of the rat lung performed ex situ provided high-resolution measurements (50-125 μm). However, it is unclear how the overall geometry of these casts might have differed from the natural in situ appearance. In this study, four male Wistar rat (268 ± 14 g) lungs were filled sequentially with perfluorocarbon and phosphate-buffered saline before being imaged in situ in a 7-T magnetic resonance (MR) scanner at a resolution of 0.2 × 0.2 × 0.27 mm. Airway length, diameter, gravitational, bifurcation, and rotational angles were measured for the first four airway generations from 3D geometric models built from the MR images. Minor interanimal variability [expressed by the relative standard deviation RSD (=SD/mean)] was found for length (0.18 ± 0.07), diameter (0.15 ± 0.15), and gravitational angle (0.12 ± 0.06). One rat model was extended to 16 airway generations. Organization of the airways using a diameter-defined Strahler ordering method resulted in lower interorder variability than conventional generation-based grouping for both diameter (RSD = 0.12 vs. 0.42) and length (0.16 vs. 0.67). Gravitational and rotational angles averaged 82.9 ± 37.9° and 53.6 ± 24.1°, respectively. Finally, the major daughter branch bifurcated at a smaller angle (19.3 ± 14.6°) than the minor branch (60.5 ± 19.4°). These data represent the most comprehensive set of rodent in situ measurements to date and can be used readily in computational studies of lung function and aerosol exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods*
  • Lung / anatomy & histology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Models, Anatomic*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar