Micro/nano-computed tomography technology for quantitative dynamic, multi-scale imaging of morphogenesis

Methods Mol Biol. 2015;1189:47-61. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-1164-6_4.


Tissue morphogenesis and embryonic development are dynamic events challenging to quantify, especially considering the intricate events that happen simultaneously in different locations and time. Micro- and more recently nano-computed tomography (micro/nanoCT) has been used for the past 15 years to characterize large 3D fields of tortuous geometries at high spatial resolution. We and others have advanced micro/nanoCT imaging strategies for quantifying tissue- and organ-level fate changes throughout morphogenesis. Exogenous soft tissue contrast media enables visualization of vascular lumens and tissues via extravasation. Furthermore, the emergence of antigen-specific tissue contrast enables direct quantitative visualization of protein and mRNA expression. Micro-CT X-ray doses appear to be non-embryotoxic, enabling longitudinal imaging studies in live embryos. In this chapter we present established soft tissue contrast protocols for obtaining high-quality micro/nanoCT images and the image processing techniques useful for quantifying anatomical and physiological information from the data sets.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens / metabolism
  • Contrast Media
  • Embryo, Mammalian / diagnostic imaging
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional*
  • Mice
  • Microinjections
  • Morphogenesis*
  • Nanotechnology / methods*
  • X-Ray Microtomography / methods*


  • Antigens
  • Contrast Media