Elastin and collagen fibers play important roles in the mechanical properties of aortic media. Because knowledge of local fiber structures is required for detailed analysis of blood vessel wall mechanics, we investigated 3D microstructures of elastin and collagen fibers in thoracic aortas and monitored changes during pressurization. Using multiphoton microscopy, autofluorescence images from elastin and second harmonic generation signals from collagen were acquired in media from rabbit thoracic aortas that were stretched biaxially to restore physiological dimensions. Both elastin and collagen fibers were observed in all longitudinal–circumferential plane images, whereas alternate bright and dark layers were observed along the radial direction and were recognized as elastic laminas (ELs) and smooth muscle-rich layers (SMLs), respectively. Elastin and collagen fibers are mainly oriented in the circumferential direction, and waviness of collagen fibers was significantly higher than that of elastin fibers. Collagen fibers were more undulated in longitudinal than in radial direction, whereas undulation of elastin fibers was equibiaxial. Changes in waviness of collagen fibers during pressurization were then evaluated using 2-dimensional fast Fourier transform in mouse aortas, and indices of waviness of collagen fibers decreased with increases in intraluminal pressure. These indices also showed that collagen fibers in SMLs became straight at lower intraluminal pressures than those in EL, indicating that SMLs stretched more than ELs. These results indicate that deformation of the aorta due to pressurization is complicated because of the heterogeneity of tissue layers and differences in elastic properties of ELs, SMLs, and surrounding collagen and elastin.
Thoracic aorta Waviness Second harmonic generation Two-photon microscopy
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This work was supported in part by JSPS KAKENHIs (Nos. 22127008, 22240055, 26709002, and 15H02209) and special operational Grants in Nagoya Institute of Technology.
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