An “innovative” technique that examines blood vessels in 3D could help veterinary pathologists determine the cause of death in patients, which could contribute to a better understanding and treatment of a number of diseases.

vessels in 3D
Blood vessels viewed in 3D. Image: Augusto Coppi / Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery at the Federal University of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Researchers from the University of Surrey and the Federal University of São Paulo have developed what they described as an “innovative” technique to sample, examine and quantify blood vessels in the brain using 3D image analysis (stereology) procedures.

Warning signs

Using experimental animal models, the technique will allow scientists to study how dementia, brain cancer and strokes may affect arteries, veins and capillaries (microcirculation) in the brain and help identify potential warning signs of illnesses before symptoms appear.

This, researchers said, could potentially be translated into humans and help reduce the number of deaths from these illnesses.

The procedure can also be used in postmortems and biopsy examinations of animal and human tissue, making it easier for pathologists to determine causes of death and quickly identify alterations in the brain circulation, such as clots or tumours.

Identifying changes

The inexpensive technique of dissolving China ink with gelatin creates a solution that makes blood vessels more visible with the use of a confocal microscope. This enables scientists and pathologists to  accurately estimate their numbers, lengths, surface areas and create 3D images that can help identify changes in their numbers, shape and size; key indicators of a number of circulation-related diseases of the brain.

The findings were published in Journal of Anatomy.

Augusto Coppi, lecturer in veterinary anatomy at the University of Surrey School of Veterinary Medicine, said: “Previously, we have been unable to fully sample and perform a quantification of the circulation of the brain in 3D as we simply could not see all vessels due to their minute size and, sometimes, due to their irregular spatial distribution.

“This new technique will allow us to sample, image and count blood vessels in 3D, giving us a greater mechanistic comprehension of how the circulation of the brain works and how brain diseases, such as dementia and strokes, affect this organ.”

  • Read the full story in the 23 January issue of Veterinary Times.
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