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Bimodal Whole-Mount Imaging of Tendon Using Confocal Microscopy and X-ray Micro-Computed Tomography

Marr, N; Hopkinson, M; Hibbert, A; Pitsillides, A; Thorpe, C


N Marr

M Hopkinson

A Hibbert

A Pitsillides

C Thorpe


BACKGROUND:3-dimensional imaging modalities for optically dense connective tissues such as tendons are limited and typically have a single imaging methodological endpoint. Here, we have developed a bimodal procedure utilising fluorescence-based confocal microscopy and x-ray micro-computed tomography for the imaging of adult tendons to visualise and analyse extracellular sub-structure and cellular composition in small and large animal species.
RESULTS: Using fluorescent immunolabelling and optical clearing, we visualised the expression of the novel cross-species marker of tendon basement membrane, laminin-α4 in 3D throughout whole rat Achilles tendons and equine superficial digital flexor tendon 5 mm segments. This revealed a complex network of laminin-α4 within the tendon core that predominantly localises to the interfascicular matrix compartment. Furthermore, we implemented a chemical drying process capable of creating contrast densities enabling visualisation and quantification of both fascicular and interfascicular matrix volume and thickness by x-ray micro-computed tomography. We also demonstrated that both modalities can be combined using reverse clarification of fluorescently labelled tissues prior to chemical drying to enable bimodal imaging of a single sample.
CONCLUSIONS: Whole-mount imaging of tendon allowed us to identify the presence of an extensive network of laminin-α4 within tendon, the complexity of which cannot be appreciated using traditional 2D imaging techniques. Creating contrast for x-ray micro-computed tomography imaging of tendon using chemical drying is not only simple and rapid, but also markedly improves on previously published methods. Combining these methods provides the ability to gain spatio-temporal information and quantify tendon substructures to elucidate the relationship between morphology and function.


Marr, N., Hopkinson, M., Hibbert, A., Pitsillides, A., & Thorpe, C. (2020). Bimodal Whole-Mount Imaging of Tendon Using Confocal Microscopy and X-ray Micro-Computed Tomography. Biological Procedures Online,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 19, 2020
Publication Date Jul 1, 2020
Deposit Date Jun 26, 2020
Publicly Available Date Dec 21, 2020
Journal Biological Procedures Online
Publisher BioMed Central
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Public URL
Publisher URL


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