Experimental investigation of collagen waviness and orientation in the arterial adventitia using confocal laser scanning microscopy

  • R. Rezakhaniha
  • A. AgianniotisEmail author
  • J. T. C. Schrauwen
  • A. Griffa
  • D. Sage
  • C. V. C. Bouten
  • F. N. van de Vosse
  • M. Unser
  • N. Stergiopulos
Open Access
Original Paper


Mechanical properties of the adventitia are largely determined by the organization of collagen fibers. Measurements on the waviness and orientation of collagen, particularly at the zero-stress state, are necessary to relate the structural organization of collagen to the mechanical response of the adventitia. Using the fluorescence collagen marker CNA38-OG488 and confocal laser scanning microscopy, we imaged collagen fibers in the adventitia of rabbit common carotid arteries ex vivo. The arteries were cut open along their longitudinal axes to get the zero-stress state. We used semi-manual and automatic techniques to measure parameters related to the waviness and orientation of fibers. Our results showed that the straightness parameter (defined as the ratio between the distances of endpoints of a fiber to its length) was distributed with a beta distribution (mean value 0.72, variance 0.028) and did not depend on the mean angle orientation of fibers. Local angular density distributions revealed four axially symmetric families of fibers with mean directions of 0°, 90°, 43° and −43°, with respect to the axial direction of the artery, and corresponding circular standard deviations of 40°, 47°, 37° and 37°. The distribution of local orientations was shifted to the circumferential direction when measured in arteries at the zero-load state (intact), as compared to arteries at the zero-stress state (cut-open). Information on collagen fiber waviness and orientation, such as obtained in this study, could be used to develop structural models of the adventitia, providing better means for analyzing and understanding the mechanical properties of vascular wall.


Orientation distribution Waviness distribution Collagen fibers Arteries Common carotid artery 



The authors would like to thank Dr. Dimitrios Kontaxakis for helpful discussions on statistical distributions and Dr. Tyler Thacher for proofreading the article. This work was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (Grant No. 325230_125445).

Open Access

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Rezakhaniha
    • 1
  • A. Agianniotis
    • 1
    • 6
    Email author
  • J. T. C. Schrauwen
    • 2
  • A. Griffa
    • 3
  • D. Sage
    • 4
  • C. V. C. Bouten
    • 5
  • F. N. van de Vosse
    • 2
  • M. Unser
    • 4
  • N. Stergiopulos
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Hemodynamics and Cardiovascular TechnologyInstitute of Bioengineering, EPFLLausanneSwitzerland
  2. 2.Cardiovascular Biomechanics, Department of Biomedical EngineeringEindhoven University of TechnologyEindhovenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Bioimaging and Optics PlatformLife Science Faculty, EPFLLausanneSwitzerland
  4. 4.Biomedical Imaging GroupEPFLLausanneSwitzerland
  5. 5.Soft Tissue Biomechanics and Engineering, Department of Biomedical EngineeringEindhoven University of TechnologyEindhovenThe Netherlands
  6. 6.EPFL STI IBI-STI LHTCLausanneSwitzerland

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