Progressive kidney diseases and renal fibrosis are associated with endothelial injury and capillary rarefaction. However, our understanding of these processes has been hampered by the lack of tools enabling the quantitative and noninvasive monitoring of vessel functionality. Here, we used micro-computed tomography (µCT) for anatomical and functional imaging of vascular alterations in three murine models with distinct mechanisms of progressive kidney injury: ischemia-reperfusion (I/R, days 1–56), unilateral ureteral obstruction (UUO, days 1–10), and Alport mice (6–8 weeks old). Contrast-enhanced in vivo µCT enabled robust, noninvasive, and longitudinal monitoring of vessel functionality and revealed a progressive decline of the renal relative blood volume in all models. This reduction ranged from −20% in early disease stages to −61% in late disease stages and preceded fibrosis. Upon Microfil perfusion, high-resolution ex vivo µCT allowed quantitative analyses of three-dimensional vascular networks in all three models. These analyses revealed significant and previously unrecognized alterations of preglomerular arteries: a reduction in vessel diameter, a prominent reduction in vessel branching, and increased vessel tortuosity. In summary, using µCT methodology, we revealed insights into macro-to-microvascular alterations in progressive renal disease and provide a platform that may serve as the basis to evaluate vascular therapeutics in renal disease.
Ehling, J., Babickova, J., Gremse, F., Klinkhammer, B. M., Baetke, S., Knuechel, R., ... Boor, P. (2016). Quantitative micro-computed tomography imaging of vascular dysfunction in progressive kidney diseases. Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, 27(2), 520-532. https://doi.org/10.1681/ASN.2015020204