Computer-assisted visualization of the rat epididymis: a methodological study based on paraffin sections autometallographically stained for zinc ions

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Abstract

Summary

A concept for the computer-assisted visualization of tubular organs is presented. Unmarked histological zinc-stained serial sections from the epididymis of the Wistar rat were aligned to demonstrate the concept. Virtual images were made through the aligned sections and served as controls for the alignment process. Animation of the serial sections and the virtual images revealed new information about the structure of the organ under investigation. The analysis was used to upgrade the anatomical knowledge of rat epididymis by describing how the epididymal duct runs through the structure. The proximal parts of the epididymis contain large communicating septa of connective tissue dividing the caput and the upper part of the corpus epididymidis into segments. The tortuousness was high in the caput with many turns within a small area of the epididymis, whereas longer loops were found in the lower part of the corpus and cauda epididymidis. The tube of the vas deferens was found to become an integrated part of the ductal system in the cauda epididymidis, although it was histologically easy to distinguish from the epididymal duct. The total number of cross-sections of the ductus epididymidis in the 2254, 15-μ-thick, tissue sections analysed was 104 700, giving a minimum length of the ductal system of 1.5 m.

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