Quantification of apoptotic tissues during inflammatory processes induced by biomaterials is challenging in vivo. Here we present a non-invasive method using a fluorescence imaging system which facilitates intermittent snap shots of the current state of local apoptotic tissue. For this purpose, apoptotic cells around two different subcutaneously implanted materials (titanium discs and copper-coated titanium discs) in hairless but immunocompetent mice were quantified after 4, 8 and 23 days of implantation. For validation, the results of fluorescence signals were compared to the histology of the inflammatory tissue using apoptotic-specific TUNEL-, macrophage-specific F4/80-, neutrophile-specific NIMP-R14- and chloroacetate esterase-staining. We could demonstrate that the fluorescence signals were well suited to quantify the extent of apoptosis in vivo and this is a good indication for the biocompatibility of biomaterials. This study shows that non-invasive monitoring of tissue processes following the implantation of biomaterials is possible in vivo and may help to reduce the number of animals in studies addressing biocompatibility.
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