Techniques for Visualization of Cell–Cell Contact at the Fetal-Maternal Interface

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Historically, several in vitro/ex vivo microscopy imaging techniques have been used to study cellular interactions within the uterus and the placenta. As these experimental methods have revealed compelling facts about the biologic phenomena of cell–cell contacts in these organs, they cannot be used to study complex dynamic behavior of living cells inside their physiologic environment. For this, recent advances in intravital imaging techniques, together with two-photon microscopy, offer an exciting opportunity to study such dynamic immunologic processes at the cellular level in the complex uterine and placental tissues. In this article, we review experimental imaging techniques that have been used for studying the uterus and placenta. In particular, we describe the advantages of intravital techniques and discuss novel procedures that can be used in reproductive immunology. We also describe several technical details involved in image sequence post-processing required to extract useful data. Finally, we conclude by discussing how the reproductive immunology field may benefit from the broad use of these intravital techniques.

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