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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Physiol. | doi: 10.3389/fphys.2019.01357

Assessment of the alveolar capillary network in the postnatal mouse lung in 3D using serial block-face scanning electron microscopy

  • 1Institute of Functional and Applied Anatomy, Hannover Medical School, Germany
  • 2Biomedical Research in Endstage and Obstructive Lung Disease Hannover (BREATH), Germany
  • 3REBIRTH Cluster of Excellence, Germany
  • 4Research Core Unit Electron Microscopy, Hannover Medical School, Germany
  • 5Department of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology (DIR), Department of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology, Heidelberg University, Germany
  • 6Member of the German Center for Lung Research (DZL), University of Heidelberg, Translational Lung Research Center, University of Heidelberg, Germany
  • 7Department of Medicine, Monash University, Australia
  • 8Murdoch Children's Research Institute, Other, Australia
  • 9Kitware (United States), United States
  • 10Institute of Functional and Applied Anatomy, Institute of Functional and Applied Anatomy, Hannover Medical School, Germany

The alveolar capillary network (ACN) has a large surface area that provides the basis for an optimized gas exchange in the lung. It needs to adapt to morphological changes during early lung development and alveolarization. Structural alterations of the pulmonary vasculature can lead to pathological functional conditions such as in bronchopulmonary dysplasia and various other lung diseases.
To understand the development of the ACN and its impact on the pathogenesis of lung diseases, methods are needed that enable comparative analyses of the complex three-dimensional structure of the ACN at different developmental stages and under pathological conditions. In this study a newborn mouse lung was imaged with serial block-face scanning electron microscopy (SBF-SEM) to investigate the ACN and its surrounding structures before the alveolarization process begins.
Most parts but not all of the examined ACN contain two layers of capillaries, which were repeatedly connected with each other. A path from an arteriole to a venule was extracted and straightened to allow cross-sectional visualization of the data along the path within a plane. This allows a qualitative characterization of the structures that erythrocytes pass on their way through the ACN.
One way to define regions of the ACN supplied by specific arterioles is presented and used for analyses.
Pillars, possibly intussusceptive, were found in the vasculature but no specific pattern was observed in regard to parts of the saccular septa.
This study provides 3D information with a resolution of about 150 nm on the microscopic structure of a newborn mouse lung and outlines some of the potentials and challenges of SBF-SEM for 3D analyses of the ACN.

Keywords: serial block-face scanning electron microscopy, Lung, Capillary network, 3D Reconstruction, segmentation

Received: 05 Aug 2019; Accepted: 14 Oct 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Buchacker, Mühlfeld, Wrede, Wagner, Beare, Mccormick and Grothausmann. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Roman Grothausmann, Institute of Functional and Applied Anatomy, Hannover Medical School, Institute of Functional and Applied Anatomy, Hanover, Germany,