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Microsc Microanal. 2017 Aug;23(4):826-842. doi: 10.1017/S1431927617000666. Epub 2017 Jun 19.

Quantification of Cardiomyocyte Alignment from Three-Dimensional (3D) Confocal Microscopy of Engineered Tissue.

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1Kosair Charities Pediatric Heart Research Program,Cardiovascular Innovation Institute,University of Louisville,Louisville,KY 40202,USA.


Biological tissues have complex, three-dimensional (3D) organizations of cells and matrix factors that provide the architecture necessary to meet morphogenic and functional demands. Disordered cell alignment is associated with congenital heart disease, cardiomyopathy, and neurodegenerative diseases and repairing or replacing these tissues using engineered constructs may improve regenerative capacity. However, optimizing cell alignment within engineered tissues requires quantitative 3D data on cell orientations and both efficient and validated processing algorithms. We developed an automated method to measure local 3D orientations based on structure tensor analysis and incorporated an adaptive subregion size to account for multiple scales. Our method calculates the statistical concentration parameter, κ, to quantify alignment, as well as the traditional orientational order parameter. We validated our method using synthetic images and accurately measured principal axis and concentration. We then applied our method to confocal stacks of cleared, whole-mount engineered cardiac tissues generated from human-induced pluripotent stem cells or embryonic chick cardiac cells and quantified cardiomyocyte alignment. We found significant differences in alignment based on cellular composition and tissue geometry. These results from our synthetic images and confocal data demonstrate the efficiency and accuracy of our method to measure alignment in 3D tissues.


alignment; cardiomyocyte; confocal; engineered cardiac tissue; structure tensor; whole mount


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