Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a genetic disorder that leads to red blood cell (RBC) sickling, hemolysis and the upregulation of adhesion molecules on sickle RBCs. Chronic hemolysis in SCD results in a hyper-inflammatory state characterized by activation of circulating leukocytes, platelets and endothelial cells even in the absence of a crisis. A crisis in SCD is often triggered by an inflammatory stimulus and can lead to the acute chest syndrome (ACS), which is a type of lung injury and a leading cause of mortality among SCD patients. Although it is believed that pulmonary vaso-occlusion could be the phenomenon contributing to the development of ACS, the role of vaso-occlusion in ACS remains elusive. Intravital imaging of the cremaster microcirculation in SCD mice has been instrumental in establishing the role of neutrophil-RBC-endothelium interactions in systemic vaso-occlusion; however, such studies, although warranted, have never been done in the pulmonary microcirculation of SCD mice. Here, we show that two-photon excitation fluorescence microscopy can be used to perform quantitative analysis of neutrophil and RBC trafficking in the pulmonary microcirculation of SCD mice. We provide the experimental approach that enables microscopic observations under physiological conditions and use it to show that RBC and neutrophil trafficking is comparable in SCD and control mice in the absence of an inflammatory stimulus. The intravital imaging scheme proposed in this study can be useful in elucidating the cellular and molecular mechanism of pulmonary vaso-occlusion in SCD mice following an inflammatory stimulus.
Keywords: Two-photon microscopy; acute chest syndrome; neutrophils; red blood cells; sickle cell disease; vaso-occlusion.