Background: As fluorescent microscopy has developed, significant insights have been gained into the establishment of immune response within secondary lymphoid organs, particularly in draining lymph nodes. While established techniques such as confocal imaging and intravital multi-photon microscopy have proven invaluable, they provide limited insight into the architectural and structural context in which these responses occur. To interrogate the role of the lymph node environment in immune response effectively, a new set of imaging tools taking into account broader architectural context must be implemented into emerging immunological questions.
Methods and results: Using two different methods of whole-organ imaging, optical clearing and three-dimensional reconstruction of serially sectioned lymph nodes, fluorescent representations of whole lymph nodes can be acquired at cellular resolution. Using freely available post-processing tools, images of unlimited size and depth can be assembled into cohesive, contextual snapshots of immunological response. Through the implementation of robust iterative analysis techniques, these highly complex three-dimensional images can be objectified into sortable object data sets. These data can then be used to interrogate complex questions at the cellular level within the broader context of lymph node biology.
Conclusions: By combining existing imaging technology with complex methods of sample preparation and capture, we have developed efficient systems for contextualizing immunological phenomena within lymphatic architecture. In combination with robust approaches to image analysis, these advances provide a path to integrating scientific understanding of basic lymphatic biology into the complex nature of immunological response.