Extraction of the 3D local orientation of myocytes in human cardiac tissue using X-ray phase-contrast micro-tomography and multi-scale analysis

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This paper presents a methodology to access the 3D local myocyte arrangements in fresh human post-mortem heart samples. We investigated the cardiac micro-structure at a high and isotropic resolution of 3.5 μm in three dimensions using X-ray phase micro-tomography at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility. We then processed the reconstructed volumes to extract the 3D local orientation of the myocytes using a multi-scale approach with no segmentation. We created a simplified 3D model of tissue sample made of simulated myocytes with known size and orientations, to evaluate our orientation extraction method. Afterwards, we applied it to 2D histological cuts and to eight 3D left ventricular (LV) cardiac tissue samples. Then, the variation of the helix angles, from the endocardium to the epicardium, was computed at several spatial resolutions ranging from 3.63 mm3 to 1123 μm3. We measure an increased range of 20° to 30° from the coarsest resolution level to the finest level in the experimental samples. This result is in line with the higher values measured from histology. The displayed tractography demonstrates a rather smooth evolution of the transmural helix angle in six LV samples and a sudden discontinuity of the helix angle in two septum samples. These measurements bring a new vision of the human heart architecture from macro- to micro-scale.

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