Tissue biomechanics during cranial neural tube closure measured by Brillouin microscopy and optical coherence tomography

Birth Defects Res. 2019 Aug 15;111(14):991-998. doi: 10.1002/bdr2.1389. Epub 2018 Sep 21.


Background: Embryonic development involves the interplay of driving forces that shape the tissue and the mechanical resistance that the tissue offers in response. While increasing evidence has suggested the crucial role of physical mechanisms underlying embryo development, tissue biomechanics is not well understood because of the lack of techniques that can quantify the stiffness of tissue in situ with 3D high-resolution and in a noncontact manner.

Methods: We used two all-optical techniques, optical coherence tomography (OCT) and Brillouin microscopy, to map the longitudinal modulus of the tissue from mouse embryos in situ.

Results: We acquired 2D mechanical maps of the neural tube region of embryos at embryonic day (E) 8.5 (n = 2) and E9.5 (n = 2) with submicron spatial resolution. We found the modulus of tissue varied distinctly within the neural tube region of the same embryo and between embryos at different development stages, suggesting our technique has enough sensitivity and spatial resolution to monitor the tissue mechanics during embryonic development in a noncontact and noninvasive manner.

Conclusions: We demonstrated the capability of OCT-guided Brillouin microscopy to quantify tissue longitudinal modulus of mouse embryos in situ, and observed distinct change in the modulus during the closure of cranial neural tube. Although this preliminary work cannot provide definitive conclusions on biomechanics of neural tube closure yet as a result of the limited number of samples, it provides an approach of quantifying the tissue mechanics during embryo development in situ, thus could be helpful in investigating the role of tissue biomechanics in the regulation of embryonic development. Our next study involving more embryo samples will investigate systematic changes in tissue mechanics during embryonic development.

Keywords: Brillouin microscopy; OCT; development; embryo; tissue biomechanics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena / physiology*
  • Embryo, Mammalian / diagnostic imaging
  • Embryo, Mammalian / embryology
  • Embryonic Development / physiology
  • Female
  • Mice / embryology
  • Microscopy / methods*
  • Neural Tube / embryology
  • Neurulation / physiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Tomography, Optical Coherence / methods*