Although increasing used in the preclinical testing of new anti-fibrotic drugs, a thorough validation of micro-computed tomography (CT) in pulmonary fibrosis models has not been performed. Moreover, no attempts have been made so far to define density thresholds to discriminate between aeration levels in lung parenchyma. In the present study, a histogram-based analysis was performed in a mouse model of bleomycin (BLM)-induced pulmonary fibrosis by micro-CT, evaluating longitudinal density changes from 7 to 21 days after BLM challenge, a period representing the progression of fibrosis. Two discriminative densitometric indices (i.e. 40th and 70th percentiles) were extracted from Hounsfield Unit density distributions and selected for lung fibrosis staging. The strong correlation with histological findings (rSpearman = 0.76, p < 0.01) confirmed that variations in 70th percentile could reflect a pathological lung condition and estimate the effect of antifibrotic treatments. This index was therefore used to define lung aeration levels in mice distinguishing in hyper-inflated, normo-, hypo- and non-aerated pulmonary compartments. A retrospective analysis performed on a large cohort of mice confirmed the correlation between the proposed preclinical density thresholds and the histological outcomes (rSpearman = 0.6, p < 0.01), strengthening their suitability for tracking disease progression and evaluating antifibrotic drug candidates.
In-vivo lung fibrosis staging in a bleomycin-mouse model: a new micro-CT guided densitometric approach / Mecozzi, L.; Mambrini, M.; Ruscitti, F.; Ferrini, E.; Ciccimarra, R.; Ravanetti, F.; Sverzellati, N.; Silva, M.; Ruffini, L.; Belenkov, S.; Civelli, M.; Villetti, G.; Stellari, F. F.. - In: SCIENTIFIC REPORTS. - ISSN 2045-2322. - 10:1(2020), p. 18735. [10.1038/s41598-020-71293-3]
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