Microcirculation plays a key role in the maintenance and hemodynamics of tissues and organs also due to its extensive interaction with the immune system. A critical limitation of state-of-the-art clinical techniques to characterize the blood flow is their lack of the spatial resolution required to scale down to individual capillaries. On the other hand the study of the blood flow through auto- or cross-correlation methods fail to correlate the flow speed values with the morphological details required to describe an intricate network of capillaries. Here we propose to use a newly developed technique (FLICS, FLow Image Correlation Spectroscopy) that, by employing a single raster-scanned xy-image acquired in vivo by confocal or multi-photon excitation fluorescence microscopy, allows the quantitative measurement of the blood flow velocity in the whole vessel pattern within the field of view, while simultaneously maintaining the morphological information on the immobile structures of the explored circulatory system. Fluorescent flowing objects produce diagonal lines in the raster-scanned image superimposed to static morphological details. The flow velocity is obtained by computing the Cross Correlation Function (CCF) of the intensity fluctuations detected in pairs of columns of the image. The whole analytical dependence of the CCFs on the flow speed amplitude and the flow direction has been reported recently. We report here the derivation of approximated analytical relations that allows to use the CCF peak lag time and the corresponding CCF value, to directly estimate the flow speed amplitude and the flow direction. The validation has been performed on Zebrafish embryos for which the flow direction was changed systematically by rotating the embryos on the microscope stage. The results indicate that also from the CCF peak lag time it is possible to recover the flow speed amplitude within 13% of uncertainty (overestimation) in a wide range of angles between the flow and the image scanning direction.
We have previously addressed experimentally blood fluidodynamics in microcapillaries by coupling optical microscopy to pixelated detection. By computing the Cross-Correlation Function (CCF) of signals coming from pixels at a distance along the flow we obtained information on the flow speed and direction. The extension of these experiments to more complex systems with high branching of capillaries and/or inverted flows needs a theoretical investigation that we present here. We focus first on straight capillaries and harmonic flows between a minimum Vmin ≠ 0 and a maximum Vmax flow speed. The CCF shows multiple peaks at lag times that correspond closely to the maximum and minimum flow speeds. The general analytical expression of the CCF is given, the position of its maxima are discussed by means of geometrical considerations and numerical analysis and an experimental validation are presented. The second case that we study is the flow in the branches of a y-shaped junction in a microcapillary. By simply modeling the branching in laminar flow (low Reynold numbers) and assuming a smooth transition of speeds along the branches we derive a simple numerical model to compute the trajectories of micro-beads. We estimate the flow speed in the branches by computing the CCFs between linear regions of interest set perpendicular to the axes of the branches.
Biomedical issues in vasculogenesis and cardiogenesis require methods to follow hemodynamics with high spatial (micrometers) and time (milliseconds) resolution. At the same time, we need to follow relevant morphogenetic processes on large fields of view. Fluorescence cross-correlation spectroscopy coupled to scanning or wide-field microscopy meets these needs but has limited flexibility in the excitation pattern. To overcome this limitation, we develop here a two-photon two-spots setup coupled to an all-reflective near-infrared (NIR) optimized scanning system and to an electron multiplying charge-coupled device. Two NIR laser spots are spaced at adjustable micron-size distances (1 to 50 μm) by means of a Twyman-Green interferometer and repeatedly scanned on the sample, allowing acquisition of information on flows at 4 ms–3 μm time-space resolution in parallel on an extended field of view. We analyze the effect of nonhomogeneous and variable flow on the cross-correlation function by numerical simulations and show exemplary application of this setup in studies of blood flow in zebrafish embryos in vivo. By coupling the interferometer with the scanning mirrors and by computing the cross-correlation function of fluorescent red blood cells, we are able to map speed patterns in embryos’ vessels.
The vascular system of Zebrafish embryos is studied by means of Fluorescence Correlation and Image Correlation Spectroscopy. The long term project addresses biologically relevant issues concerning vasculogenesis and cardiogenesis and in particular mechanical interaction between blood flow and endothelial cells. To this purpose we use Zebrafish as a model system since the transparency of its embryos facilitates morphological observation of internal organs in-vivo. The correlation analysis provides quantitative characterization of fluxes in blood vessels in vivo. We have pursued and compared two complementary routes. In a first one we developed a two-spots two-photon setup in which the spots are spaced at adjustable micron-size distances (1-40 μm) along a vessel and the endogenous (autofluorescence) or exogenous (dsRed transgenic erythrocytes) signal is captured with an EM-CCD and cross-correlated. In this way we are able to follow the morphology of the Zebrafish embryo, simultaneously measure the heart pulsation, the velocity of red cells and of small plasma proteins. These data are compared to those obtained by image correlations on Zebrafish vessels. The two methods allows to characterize the motion of plasma fluids and erythrocytes in healthy Zebrafish embryos to be compared in the future to pathogenic ones.