Most blood vessels contain elastin that provides the vessels with the resilience and flexibility necessary to control hemodynamics. Pathophysiological hemodynamic changes affect the remodeling of elastic components, but little is known about their structural properties. The present study was designed to elucidate, in detail, the three-dimensional (3D) architecture of delicate elastic fibers in small vessels, and to reveal their architectural pattern in a rat model. The fine vascular elastic components were observed by a newly developed scanning electron microscopy technique using a formic acid digestion with vascular casts. This method successfully visualized the 3D architecture of elastic fibers in small blood vessels, even arterioles and venules. The subendothelial elastic fibers in such small vessels assemble into a sheet of meshwork running longitudinally, while larger vessels have a higher density of mesh and thicker mesh fibers. The quantitative analysis revealed that arterioles had a wider range of mesh density than venules; the ratio of density to vessel size was higher than that in venules. The new method was useful for evaluating the subendothelial elastic fibers of small vessels and for demonstrating differences in the architecture of different types of vessels.
- elastic fiber
- formic acid digestion
- three-dimensional architecture
- vascular corrosion casting
ASJC Scopus subject areas