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The effects of aging on the intimal region of the human saphenous vein: insights from multimodal microscopy and quantitative image analysis


We hypothesized that structural remodeling associated with advancing age occurs in human saphenous veins. To address this hypothesis, we have identified structural remodeling in human saphenous veins by applying histochemistry, fluorescence staining and quantitative image analysis to specifically assess intimal area, intimal cellularity and intimal collagen content and organization. Saphenous veins were collected from patients undergoing coronary artery bypass graft surgery. Area measurements and cellularity were quantified using the image analysis software Stereo Investigator, employing planimetry and counting frames, respectively. Collagen content and organization were quantified in MetaMorph image analysis software based on measurements of color (hue, saturation, and intensity) from polarized light images. Intimal area and cellularity showed no statistically significant increases with age; in contrast, total collagen content showed a significant decrease with advancing age. Furthermore, collagen fiber types also demonstrated a statistically significant alteration with age; increases in age resulted in decreases in larger collagen fibers. No significant changes in small collagen fibers were identified. These results raise the possibility that age-associated structural alterations in total collagen content, specifically collagen fiber size, could be a factor in the etiology of age-associated venous diseases.

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We would like to thank Marilyn Wadsworth and Nicole Bishop from the Microscopy Imaging Center (University of Vermont) for their excellent technical support, and Masha Stern from MBF Biosciences (Williston, VT) for technical support. P01 HL46703 (to EGB) from the National Institute of Health and the Transatlantic Network for Excellence in Cardiovascular Research grant (to EGB) from the Leducq foundation, Paris FR. supported this work. Additionally, this research was made possible by Award Number 1S10RR019246 from the National Center for Research Resources (to DJT) for purchase of the Zeiss 510 META confocal scanning laser microscope.

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Correspondence to Edwin G. Bovill.

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Fonseca, C., Taatjes, D.J., Callas, P. et al. The effects of aging on the intimal region of the human saphenous vein: insights from multimodal microscopy and quantitative image analysis. Histochem Cell Biol 138, 435–445 (2012).

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  • Aging
  • Vein
  • Saphenous vein
  • Intima
  • Morphometry