In this study we present the analysis of in vivo micro-CT scans using a new method based on image registration that accurately evaluates longitudinal micro-CT studies. We tested if detailed changes in the bone architecture could be detected and tracked in individual animals.
A prototype in vivo micro-CT scanner (Skyscan 1076) was developed in which tibiae of rats that are lying on a bed under gas anaesthesia were scanned. For this study, three female Wistar rats were used: a sham-operated rat, an ovariectomised (OVX) rat and one rat that served as a reproducibility control. The reproducibility control rat was scanned twice in 1 day. The other animals were scanned at week 0, just before surgery, at week 4 and at week 14 after surgery. Architectural changes over time were detected by overlaying two data sets made at different time points using an algorithm that uses mutual information for optimal registration. The scans were segmented into binary data sets using a local thresholding algorithm.
The reproducibility test showed small errors of less than 3% in bone volume measurements and errors less than 0.5% in measurements of trabecular thickness.
The sham-operated rat showed no changes in total bone volume, though thinning and eventual loss of some small trabeculae could be detected, which could be related to the age of the animal. The OVX rat lost much trabecular bone volume, especially in the metaphysis (60% at week 4, 75% at week 14). The remaining trabeculae slowly increased in thickness. Following the different scans in time showed the forming of new trabecular structures. Additionally, small longitudinal growth at the growth plate could be detected after the first 4 weeks. Further, the OVX rat showed extensive modelling at the proximal endosteal lateral cortex.
We have shown a new method that can detect and track changes in the local bone architecture and individual trabeculae in time, in an individual living animal. This method enables longitudinal in vivo micro-CT studies and has the potential to greatly contribute to experimental rat or mouse studies on pharmacological intervention and transgenic models.
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