A BFU is an organ's smallest assembly of diverse cells that functions like the organ, such as the liver's hepatic lobules. There are approximately 107 BFUs in a human organ. These 100-200
μm structures are perfused by capillaries fed by a terminal arteriole (15μm diameter). BFU sizes, function and number per organ vary with disease, either by loss of BFUs and/or their decrease in function. The BFU is the upper limit of a spherical assembly of cells, immersed in a suitably nutrient medium, which can survive without its own blood supply. However, each BFU has its own blood supply to support the extra energy and/or solutes needed for providing its physiological function (e.g., contraction or secretion).
A BFU function is best evaluated by its micro-perfusion, which can be readily evaluated with whole-body CT. Resolution of individual BFUs within in-situ organs, using clinical imaging devices, would require high radiation doses and/or the intolerably long scan-durations needed for suitable signal-to-noise image-data. However, it is possible to obtain a statistical description of the BFU number, size and function from wholebody CT by way of a model. In this study we demonstrate this capability by using the distribution of
myocardial terminal arteriolar perfusion territories by way of a nested, multiple, regions-of-interest analysis of the heart wall imaged during transient opacification of its blood supply.