Three-dimensional virtual histology of the human hippocampus based on phase-contrast computed tomography


Eckermann M, Schmitzer B, van der Meer F, Franz J, Hansen O, Stadelmann C, Salditt T




Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A . 2021 Nov 30;118(48):e2113835118


We have studied the three-dimensional (3D) cytoarchitecture of the human hippocampus in neuropathologically healthy and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) individuals, based on phase-contrast X-ray computed tomography of postmortem human tissue punch biopsies. In view of recent findings suggesting a nuclear origin of AD, we target in particular the nuclear structure of the dentate gyrus (DG) granule cells. Tissue samples of 20 individuals were scanned and evaluated using a highly automated approach of measurement and analysis, combining multiscale recordings, optimized phase retrieval, segmentation by machine learning, representation of structural properties in a feature space, and classification based on the theory of optimal transport. Accordingly, we find that the prototypical transformation between a structure representing healthy granule cells and the pathological state involves a decrease in the volume of granule cell nuclei, as well as an increase in the electron density and its spatial heterogeneity. The latter can be explained by a higher ratio of heterochromatin to euchromatin. Similarly, many other structural properties can be derived from the data, reflecting both the natural polydispersity of the hippocampal cytoarchitecture between different individuals in the physiological context and the structural effects associated with AD pathology.



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