Ultrahigh-resolution optical coherence elastography images cellular-scale stiffness of mouse aorta

Philip Wijesinghe*, Niloufer J. Johansen, Andrea Curatolo, David D. Sampson, Ruth Ganss, Brendan F. Kennedy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Cellular-scale imaging of the mechanical properties of tissue has helped to reveal the origins of disease; however, cellular-scale resolution is not readily achievable in intact tissue volumes. Here, we demonstrate volumetric imaging of Young’s modulus using ultrahigh-resolution optical coherence elastography, and apply it to characterizing the stiffness of mouse aortas. We achieve isotropic resolution of better than 15 μm over a 1-mm lateral field of view through the entire depth of an intact aortic wall. We employ a method of quasi-static compression elastography that measures volumetric axial strain and uses a compliant, transparent layer to measure surface axial stress. This combination is used to estimate Young’s modulus throughout the volume. We demonstrate differentiation by stiffness of individual elastic lamellae and vascular smooth muscle. We observe stiffening of the aorta in regulator of G protein signaling 5-deficient mice, a model that is linked to vascular remodeling and fibrosis. We observe increased stiffness with proximity to the heart, as well as regions with micro-structural and micro-mechanical signatures characteristic of fibrous and lipid-rich tissue. High-resolution imaging of Young’s modulus with optical coherence elastography may become an important tool in vascular biology and in other fields concerned with understanding the role of mechanics within the complex three-dimensional architecture of tissue.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2540-2551
Number of pages12
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 5 Dec 2017


  • Biochemistry
  • Genetics and molecular biology


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