Advanced Imaging Techniques for Investigation of Acellular Dermal Matrix Biointegration

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Biointegration, a concept involving a dynamic interplay among three processes—inflammation, cellular infiltration, and angiogenesis—is key to understanding the interaction between acellular dermal matrices and the host. The current standard for evaluating acellular dermal matrix biointegration involves histologic analysis at fixed time points; however, the authors’ approach uses advanced imaging techniques to serially assess biointegration in real time.


The authors have adapted two advanced imaging techniques—two-photon microscopy and photoacoustic microscopy—to investigate biointegration in a murine deepithelialized dorsal skin-fold window chamber model, specifically engineered to recapitulate the host microenvironment of acellular dermal matrix–assisted breast reconstruction. Four mice per group were assessed. Two-photon imaging of dual-transgenic mice allows for detection of fluorescently labeled perivascular cells, and macrophage lineage cells. Photoacoustic microscopy noninvasively assesses oxygen and hemoglobin concentration in living tissues, generating high-resolution, three-dimensional mapping of the nascent acellular dermal matrix–associated microvasculature and metabolic consumption of oxygen. These outcomes were corroborated by confirmatory histologic analysis at the terminal time point.


The acellular dermal matrix/host interface is characterized by robust inflammation (0 to 3 days), increased oxygen consumption and neoangiogenesis in the matrix border zone (10 to 14 days), and vascular and inflammatory cell penetration into the center of the matrix (>21 days).


The data broaden the core knowledge of acellular dermal matrix biology, and serve as a potential template for elucidating the key differences among various commercially available and developmental products to guide the reconstructive surgeon to better select a reconstructive adjunct that meets their specific needs.

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