Three-Dimensional Imaging Provides Detailed Atherosclerotic Plaque Morphology and Reveals Angiogenesis After Carotid Artery Ligation

Tobias Becher, Dario F. Riascos-Bernal, Daniel J. Kramer, Vanessa M. Almonte, Jingy Chi, Tao Tong, Gustavo H. Oliveira-Paula, Issam Koleilat, Wei Chen, Paul Cohen, Nicholas E.S. Sibinga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Rationale: Remodeling of the vessel wall and the formation of vascular networks are dynamic processes that occur during mammalian embryonic development and in adulthood. Plaque development and excessive neointima formation are hallmarks of atherosclerosis and vascular injury. As our understanding of these complex processes evolves, there is a need to develop new imaging techniques to study underlying mechanisms. Objective: We used tissue clearing and light-sheet microscopy for 3-dimensional (3D) profiling of the vascular response to carotid artery ligation and induction of atherosclerosis in mouse models. Methods and Results: Adipo-Clear and immunolabeling in combination with light-sheet microscopy were applied to image carotid arteries and brachiocephalic arteries, allowing for 3D reconstruction of vessel architecture. Entire 3D neointima formations with different geometries were observed within the carotid artery and scored by volumetric analysis. Additionally, we identified a CD31-positive adventitial plexus after ligation of the carotid artery that evolved and matured over time. We also used this method to characterize plaque extent and composition in the brachiocephalic arteries of ApoE-deficient mice on high-fat diet. The plaques exhibited inter-animal differences in terms of plaque volume, geometry, and ratio of acellular core to plaque volume. A 3D reconstruction of the endothelium overlying the plaque was also generated. Conclusions: We present a novel approach to characterize vascular remodeling in adult mice using Adipo-Clear in combination with light-sheet microscopy. Our method reconstructs 3D neointima formation after arterial injury and allows for volumetric analysis of remodeling, in addition to revealing angiogenesis and maturation of a plexus surrounding the carotid artery. This method generates complete 3D reconstructions of atherosclerotic plaques and uncovers their volume, geometry, acellular component, surface, and spatial position within the brachiocephalic arteries. Our approach may be used in a number of mouse models of cardiovascular disease to assess vessel geometry and volume.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)619-632
Number of pages14
JournalCirculation research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Feb 28 2020


  • 3-D imaging
  • atherosclerosis
  • carotid arteries
  • endothelium
  • neointima
  • vascular remodeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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