Computed Tomography Diffraction-Enhanced Imaging for In Situ Visualization of Tissue Scaffolds Implanted in Cartilage

Long-term in vivo studies on animal models and advances from animal to human studies should rely on noninvasive monitoring methods. Synchrotron radiation (SR)-diffraction enhanced imaging (DEI) has shown great promise as a noninvasive method for visualizing native and/or engineered tissues and bio-microstructures with appreciable details in situ. The objective of this study was to investigate SR-DEI for in situ visualization and characterization of tissue-engineered scaffolds implanted in cartilage. A piglet stifle joint implanted with an engineered scaffold made from poly-ɛ-caprolactone was imaged using SR computed tomography (CT)-DEI at an X-ray energy of 40 keV. For comparison, in situ visualization was also conducted with commonly used SR CT-phase contrast imaging and clinical magnetic resonance imaging techniques. The reconstructed CT-DE images show the implanted scaffold with the structural properties much clearer than those in the CT-PC and MR images. Furthermore, CT-DEI was able to visualize microstructures within the cartilage as well as different soft tissues surrounding the joint. These microstructural details were not recognizable using other imaging techniques. Taken together, the results of this study suggest that CT-DEI can be used for noninvasive visualization and characterization of scaffolds in cartilage, representing an advance in tissue engineering to track the success of tissue scaffolds for cartilage repair.