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Hagen, Charlotte K.; Maghsoudlou, Panagiotis; Totonelli, Giorgia; Diemoz, Paul C.; Endrizzi, Marco; Rigon, Luigi; Menk, Ralf-Hendrik; Arfelli, Fulvia; Dreossi, Diego; Brun, Emmanuel; Coan, Paola; Bravin, Alberto; De Coppi, Paolo and Olivo, Alessandro (2015): High contrast microstructural visualization of natural acellular matrices by means of phase-based x-ray tomography. In: Scientific Reports, Vol. 5, 18156 [PDF, 1MB]

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Acellular scaffolds obtained via decellularization are a key instrument in regenerative medicine both per se and to drive the development of future-generation synthetic scaffolds that could become available off-the-shelf. In this framework, imaging is key to the understanding of the scaffolds' internal structure as well as their interaction with cells and other organs, including ideally post-implantation. Scaffolds of a wide range of intricate organs (esophagus, lung, liver and small intestine) were imaged with x-ray phase contrast computed tomography (PC-CT). Image quality was sufficiently high to visualize scaffold microarchitecture and to detect major anatomical features, such as the esophageal mucosal-submucosal separation, pulmonary alveoli and intestinal villi. These results are a long-sought step for the field of regenerative medicine;until now, histology and scanning electron microscopy have been the gold standard to study the scaffold structure. However, they are both destructive: hence, they are not suitable for imaging scaffolds prior to transplantation, and have no prospect for post-transplantation use. PC-CT, on the other hand, is non-destructive, 3D and fully quantitative. Importantly, not only do we demonstrate achievement of high image quality at two different synchrotron facilities, but also with commercial x-ray equipment, which makes the method available to any research laboratory.

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