CABI

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Vascular network analysis

The delivery of nutrients and oxygen to tumours is highly inefficient compared with normal tissues, due to the disorganise structure of tumour blood vessels. Tumours often feature regions with low oxygen levels (hypoxia), which can induce a more aggressive tumour type and can impact on drug delivery and radiotherapy efficacy. The ability to measure and predict the distribution of blood flow and hypoxia in individual tumours is therefore of key importance.

We are developing non-invasive imaging techniques for measuring tumour blood flow, such as arterial spin labelling (ASL), although the resolution of images acquired using these approaches is low (~0.25mm) compared with the size of blood vessels (between 0.03 and 0.1mm). To investigate blood dynamics in tumours we use a technique called microvascular casting to elucidate the structure of blood vessel networks in rodent tumour models. Here, a polymer (Microfil) is injected into tumour blood vessels, which contains a radiopaque material that gives excellent contrast in micro-CT images. Using this technique, we can produce very high-resolution (~0.05mm), three-dimensional images of tumour blood vessels (see movie below).

Through a number of collaborations, we are developing techniques for simulating blood flow in microvascular casts and are using this to compare with estimates from live blood flow measurements from ASL. We are also interested in the structure of tumour blood vessel networks and are developing tools for investigating multi-scale (fractal) models of blood vessel formation.

Figure 1: 3D rendering of a tumour vascular cast.

Page last modified on 19 jan 12 14:17