Automated quantification of renal fibrosis with Sirius Red and polarization contrast microscopy

Physiol Rep. 2014 Jul 22;2(7):e12088. doi: 10.14814/phy2.12088. Print 2014 Jul 1.


Interstitial fibrosis is commonly measured by histology. The Masson trichrome stain is widely used, with semiquantitative scores subjectively assigned by trained operators. We have developed an objective technique combining Sirius Red staining, polarization contrast microscopy, and automated analysis. Repeated analysis of the same sections by the same operator (r = 0.99) or by different operators (r = 0.98) was highly consistent for Sirius Red, while Masson trichrome performed less consistently (r = 0.61 and 0.72, respectively). These techniques performed equally well when comparing sections from the left and right kidneys of mice. Poor correlation between Sirius Red and Masson trichrome may reflect different specificities, as enhanced birefringence with Sirius Red staining is specific for collagen type I and III fibrils. Combining whole-section imaging and automated image analysis with Sirius Red/polarization contrast is a rapid, reproducible, and precise technique that is complementary to Masson trichrome. It also prevents biased selection of fields as fibrosis is measured on the entire kidney section. This new tool shall enhance our search for novel therapeutics and noninvasive biomarkers for fibrosis.

Keywords: Chronic kidney disease; Masson trichrome; fibrosis.