In vivo lung micro-CT is increasingly embraced in pulmonary research, because it provides longitudinal information on dynamic disease processes in a field where ex vivo assessment of experimental disease models is still the gold standard. To optimize the quantitative monitoring of progression and therapy of lung diseases, we evaluated longitudinal changes in four different micro-CT-derived biomarkers describing normal development, lung infections, inflammation, fibrosis and therapy.
Free-breathing mice underwent micro-CT before and repeatedly after induction of lung disease (bleomycin-induced fibrosis, invasive pulmonary aspergillosis, pulmonary cryptococcosis) and therapy (imatinib). Lung biomarkers (total lung volume, aerated lung volume, tissue (including lesions) volume, and mean lung density) were quantified. After the last time point, we performed pulmonary function tests and isolated the lungs for histology.
None of the biomarkers remained stable during longitudinal follow-up of adult healthy mouse lungs, implying that biomarkers should be compared with age-matched controls upon intervention. Early inflammation and progressive fibrosis lead to a substantial increase in total lung volume that affects the interpretation of aerated lung volume, tissue volume and mean lung density measures. Upon treatment of fibrotic lung disease, the improvement in aerated lung volume and function was not accompanied by a normalization of the increased total lung volume. Significantly enlarged lungs were also present in models of rapidly and slowly progressing lung infections. The data suggest that total lung volume changes may partly reflect a compensatory mechanism that occurs during disease progression in mice.
Our findings underscore the importance of quantifying total lung volume in addition to aerated lung or lesion volumes to accurately document growth and potential compensatory mechanisms in mouse models of lung disease, in order to fully describe and understand dynamic processes during lung disease onset, progression and therapy trials. This is highly relevant for translation of therapy evaluation results from preclinical studies to human patients.
- Received February 26, 2015.
- Accepted November 8, 2015.
- © 2015. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd
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