Imaging Extracellular Matrix Remodeling In Vitro by Diffusion-Sensitive Optical Coherence Tomography

TitleImaging Extracellular Matrix Remodeling In Vitro by Diffusion-Sensitive Optical Coherence Tomography
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsBlackmon, RL, Sandhu, R, Chapman, BS, Casbas-Hernandez, P, Tracy, JB, Troester, MA, Oldenburg, AL
JournalBiophysical Journal
Start Page1858
Date Published04/2016

The mammary gland extracellular matrix (ECM) is comprised of biopolymers, primarily collagen I, that are created and maintained by stromal fibroblasts. ECM remodeling by fibroblasts results in changes in ECM fiber spacing (pores) that have been shown to play a critical role in the aggressiveness of breast cancer. However, minimally invasive methods to measure the spatial distribution of ECM pore areas within tissues and in vitro 3D culture models are currently lacking. We introduce diffusion-sensitive optical coherence tomography (DS-OCT) to image the nanoscale porosity of ECM by sensing weakly constrained diffusion of gold nanorods (GNRs). DS-OCT combines the principles of low-coherence interferometry and heterodyne dynamic light scattering. By collecting co- and cross-polarized light backscattered from GNRs within tissue culture, the ensemble-averaged translational self-diffusion rate, DT, of GNRs is resolved within ∼3 coherence volumes (10 × 5 μm, x × z). As GNRs are slowed by intermittent collisions with ECM fibers, DT is sensitive to ECM porosity on the size scale of their hydrodynamic diameter (∼46 nm). Here, we validate the utility of DS-OCT using pure collagen I gels and 3D mammary fibroblast cultures seeded in collagen/Matrigel, and associate differences in artificial ECM pore areas with gel concentration and cell seed density. Across all samples, DT was highly correlated with pore area obtained by scanning electron microscopy (R2 = 0.968). We also demonstrate that DS-OCT can accurately map the spatial heterogeneity of layered samples. Importantly, DS-OCT of 3D mammary fibroblast cultures revealed the impact of fibroblast remodeling, where the spatial heterogeneity of matrix porosity was found to increase with cell density. This provides an unprecedented view into nanoscale changes in artificial ECM porosity over effective pore diameters ranging from ∼43 to 360 nm using a micron-scale optical imaging technique. In combination with the topical deposition of GNRs, the minimally invasive nature of DS-OCT makes this a promising technology for studying tissue remodeling processes.