Cutting-edge microangio-CT: new dimensions in vascular imaging and kidney morphometry

Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2018 Mar 1;314(3):F493-F499. doi: 10.1152/ajprenal.00099.2017. Epub 2017 Nov 22.


In the last decades, the contrast-enhanced micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) imaging of a whole animal kidney became increasingly important. The visualization was mainly limited to middle-sized vessels. Since modern desktop micro-CT scanners provide the necessary detail resolution, we developed an approach for rapid visualization and consistent assessment of kidney vasculature and glomeruli number. This method is based on μAngiofil, a new polymerizing contrast agent with homogenous X-ray absorption, which provides continuous filling of the complete vasculature and enables correlative imaging approaches. For rapid and reliable kidney morphometry, the microangio-CT (µaCT) data sets from glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF)+/- mice and their wild-type littermates were used. The results were obtained much faster compared with the current gold standard, histology-based stereology, and without processing artifacts. The histology-based morphometry was done afterward on the same kidneys. Both approaches revealed that the GDNF+/- male mice had about 40% fewer glomeruli. Furthermore, our approach allows for the definition of sites of interest for further histological investigation, i.e., correlative morphology. The polymerized μAngiofil stays in perfused vessels and is autofluorescent, which is what greatly facilitates the matching of histological sections with µaCT data. The presented approach is a time-efficient, reliable, qualitative, and quantitative methodology. Besides glomerular morphometry, the µaCT data can be used for qualitative and quantitative analysis of the kidney vasculature and correlative morphology.

Keywords: contrast agent; kidney morphometry; micro-CT; stereology; µAngiofil.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biopsy
  • Computed Tomography Angiography / methods*
  • Contrast Media / administration & dosage
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / genetics
  • Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Kidney / blood supply*
  • Kidney Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Kidney Diseases / genetics
  • Kidney Diseases / metabolism
  • Kidney Diseases / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Perfusion Imaging / methods*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Radiographic Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Renal Circulation*
  • X-Ray Microtomography / methods*


  • Contrast Media
  • Gdnf protein, mouse
  • Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor