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Technical note: Cartilage imaging with sub-cellular resolution using a laboratory-based phase-contrast x-ray microscope

Esposito, M; Astolfo, A; Cipiccia, S; Jones, CM; Savvidis, S; Ferrara, JD; Endrizzi, M; Dudhia, J; Olivo, A


M Esposito

A Astolfo

S Cipiccia

CM Jones

S Savvidis

JD Ferrara

M Endrizzi

J Dudhia

A Olivo


BackgroundMicroscopic imaging of cartilage is a key tool for the study and development of treatments for osteoarthritis. When cellular and sub-cellular resolution is required, histology remains the gold standard approach, albeit limited by the lack of volumetric information as well as by processing artifacts. Cartilage imaging with the sub-cellular resolution has only been demonstrated in the synchrotron environment. PurposeTo provide a proof-of-concept demonstration of the capability of a laboratory-based x-ray phase-contrast microscope to resolve sub-cellular features in a cartilage sample. MethodsThis work is based on a laboratory-based x-ray microscope using intensity-modulation masks. The structured nature of the beam, resulting from the mask apertures, allows the retrieval of three contrast channels, namely, transmission, refraction and dark-field, with resolution depending only on the mask aperture width. An ex vivo equine cartilage sample was imaged with the x-ray microscope and results were validated with synchrotron tomography and histology. ResultsIndividual chondrocytes, that is, cells responsible for cartilage formation, could be detected with the laboratory-based microscope. The complementarity of the three retrieved contrast channels allowed the detection of sub-cellular features in the chondrocytes. ConclusionsWe provide the first proof-of-concept of imaging cartilage tissue with sub-cellular resolution using a laboratory-based x-ray microscope.


Esposito, M., Astolfo, A., Cipiccia, S., Jones, C., Savvidis, S., Ferrara, J., …Olivo, A. (2023). Technical note: Cartilage imaging with sub-cellular resolution using a laboratory-based phase-contrast x-ray microscope. Medical Physics,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 12, 2023
Publication Date Jul 11, 2023
Deposit Date Aug 1, 2023
Publicly Available Date Aug 1, 2023
Print ISSN 0094-2405
Publisher American Association of Physicists in Medicine
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords cartilage imaging; cellular imaging; dark-field; phase-contrast imaging; soft tissue imaging; x-ray microscopy; COMPUTED-TOMOGRAPHY; ARTICULAR-CARTILAGE


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