Novel in vivo techniques to visualize kidney anatomy and function

Kidney Int. 2015 Jul;88(1):44-51. doi: 10.1038/ki.2015.65. Epub 2015 Mar 4.


Intravital imaging using multiphoton microscopy (MPM) has become an increasingly popular and widely used experimental technique in kidney research over the past few years. MPM allows deep optical sectioning of the intact, living kidney tissue with submicron resolution, which is unparalleled among intravital imaging approaches. MPM has solved a long-standing critical technical barrier in renal research to study several complex and inaccessible cell types and anatomical structures in vivo in their native environment. Comprehensive and quantitative kidney structure and function MPM studies helped our better understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms of the healthy and diseased kidney. This review summarizes recent in vivo MPM studies with a focus on the glomerulus and the filtration barrier, although select, glomerulus-related renal vascular and tubular functions are also mentioned. The latest applications of serial MPM of the same glomerulus in vivo, in the intact kidney over several days, during the progression of glomerular disease are discussed. This visual approach, in combination with genetically encoded fluorescent markers of cell lineage, has helped track the fate and function (e.g., cell calcium changes) of single podocytes during the development of glomerular pathologies, and provided visual proof for the highly dynamic, rather than static, nature of the glomerular environment. Future intravital imaging applications have the promise to further push the limits of optical microscopy, and to advance our understanding of the mechanisms of kidney injury. Also, MPM will help to study new mechanisms of tissue repair and regeneration, a cutting-edge area of kidney research.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cell Movement
  • Glomerular Filtration Barrier / anatomy & histology*
  • Glomerular Filtration Barrier / physiology*
  • Intravital Microscopy / methods*
  • Kidney Diseases / pathology*
  • Kidney Diseases / physiopathology
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence, Multiphoton*
  • Podocytes / physiology
  • Rats
  • Time-Lapse Imaging
  • Zebrafish


  • Calcium