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Cell Tissue Res. 2008 Jun;332(3):461-8. doi: 10.1007/s00441-008-0601-0. Epub 2008 Apr 10.

Resolving the three-dimensional myoarchitecture of bovine esophageal wall with diffusion spectrum imaging and tractography.

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  • 1Department of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


In order to determine the three-dimensional (3D) resolved muscular anatomy of the mammalian esophagus, we have examined its myoarchitecture with diffusion spectrum magnetic resonance imaging (DSI) and tractography. DSI measures diffusion displacement as a function of magnetic gradients of varied direction and intensity and displays the displacement profile as a 3D contour per voxel. In tractography, the orientation vectors of maximum diffusion/voxel are identified, and intervoxel associations are constructed by a streamline algorithm based on angular similarity in order to generate mesoscale myofiber tracts. We demonstrate that the proximal body of the esophagus consists of helically aligned crossing fiber populations that overlap between layers in the form of a "zipper" region along the length of the tissue. With increasingly distal position along the length of the tissue, helix angle and skeletal muscle prevalence are reduced such that fibers align themselves in the most distal location into distinct inner circular and outer longitudinal smooth muscle layers. We conclude that esophageal myoanatomy consists of crossing myofibers exhibiting a decreasing degree of helicity as a function of axial position and propose that this unique geometric construct provides a mechanism to resist distension and promote aboral flow.

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