Examining Vascular Structure and Function Using Confocal Microscopy and 3D Imaging Techniques

  • Craig J. DalyEmail author
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 1120)


The structure of the blood vessel wall has historically been studied using thin cut sections using standard histological stains. In the mid-80s laser scanning confocal microscopes became available and offered investigators the chance to examine the 3D structure of thicker sections (i.e. ~60 μm depth penetration for a typical vascular wall). Unfortunately, desktop computers lagged far behind in their capacity to process and display large 3D (confocal) data sets. Even extremely highly priced graphics workstations of the early to mid-90s offered little in the way of flexible 3D viewing. Today’s gaming PCs provide the kind of processing power that 3D confocal users have been waiting for. Coupled with high end animation software, virtual reality and game design software, we now have the capacity to exploit the huge data sets that modern microscopes can produce. In this chapter, the vascular wall will be used as an example of a biological tissue that can benefit from these developments in imaging hardware and software.


Vascular Imaging Virtual reality Artery 3D imaging 


  1. Arribas SM, Hillier C, González C, McGrory S, Dominiczak AF, McGrath JC (1997) Cellular aspects of vascular remodeling in hypertension revealed by confocal microscopy. Hypertension 30(6):1455–1464CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bakar HA, Dunn WR, Daly CJ, Ralevic V (2017) Sensory innervation of perivascular adipose tissue: a crucial role in artery vasodilatation and leptin release. Cardiovasc Res 113(8):962–972CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Briones AM, Gonzalez JM, Somoza B, Giraldo J, Daly CJ, Vila E, Gonzalez MC, McGrath JC, Arribas SM (2003) Role of elastin in spontaneously hypertensive rat small mesenteric artery remodelling. J Physiol Lond 552:185–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Briones AM, Daly CJ, Jimenez-Altayo F, Martinez-Revelles S, Gonzalez JM, McGrath JC, Vila E (2005) Direct demonstration of β1- and evidence against β2- and β3- adrenoceptors, in smooth muscle cells of rat small mesenteric arteries. Br J Pharmacol 146(5):679–691CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bulloch JM, Daly CJ (2014) Autonomic nerves and perivascular fat: interactive mechanisms. Pharmacol Ther 43(1):61–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cheng CK, Baker HA, Gollasch M, Huang Yu (2018, Oct) Perivascular adipose tissue: the sixth man of the Cardiovascular System. Cardiovasc Drugs Ther 32(5):481–502Google Scholar
  7. Daly CJ, McGrath JC (2003) Fluorescent ligands, antibodies & proteins for the study of receptors. Pharmacol Ther 100(2):101–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Daly CJ, McGrath JC (2011) Previously unsuspected widespread cellular and tissue distribution of beta-adrenoceptors and its relevance to drug action. Trends Pharmacol Sci 32(4):219–226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Daly CJ, Gordon JF, McGrath JC (1992) The use of fluorescent nuclear dyes for the study of blood vessel structure and function: novel applications of existing techniques. J Vasc Res 29:41–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Daly CJ, Milligan CM, Milligan G, Mackenzie JF, McGrath JC (1998) Cellular localisation and pharmacological characterisation of functioning a1-adrenoceptors by fluorescent ligand binding and image analysis reveals identical binding properties of clustered and diffuse populations of receptors. J Pharmacol Exp Ther 286:984–990PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Daly CJ, McGee A, Vila E, Briones A, Arribas SM, Pagakis S, Adler J, Merle A, Maddison J, Pedersen J, McGrath JC (2002) Analysing the 3D structure of blood vessels using confocal microscopy. Microsc Anal 92:5–8Google Scholar
  12. Daly CJ, Ross RA, Whyte J, Henstridge CM, Irving AJ, McGrath JC (2010) Fluorescent ligand binding reveals heterogeneous distribution of adrenergic and ‘cannabinoid-like’ receptors in small arteries. Br J Pharmacol 159:787–796CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Daly CJ, Clunie L, Ma M (2014) From microscope to movies; 3D animations for teaching physiology. Microsc Anal 28(6):7–10Google Scholar
  14. Graham JM, Keatinge WR (1972) Differences in sensitivity to vasoconstrictor drugs within the wall of the sheep carotid artery. J Physiol 221:477–492CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kantachuvesiri S, Fleming S, Peters J, Peters B, Brooker G, Lammie AG, McGrath I, Kotelevtsev Y, Mullins JJ (2001) Controlled hypertension, a transgenic toggle switch reveals differential mechanisms underlying vascular disease. J Biol Chem 276(39):36727–36733CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Konukoglu D, Uzun H (2017) Endothelial dysfunction and hypertension. Adv Exp Med Biol 956:511–540CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. McCarron JG, Lee MD, Wilson C (2017) The endothelium solves problems that endothelial cells do not know exist. Trends Pharmacol Sci 38(4):322–338CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. McGrath JC, Daly CJ (1995) Viewing adrenoceptors; past, present, and future; commentary and a new technique. Pharmacol Commun 6:269–279Google Scholar
  19. McGrath JC, Arribas SM, Daly CJ (1996) Fluorescent ligands for the study of receptors. Trends Pharmacol Sci 17(11):393–399CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. McGrath JC, Deighan C, Briones AM, Arribas SM, Vila E, Daly CJ (2005) New aspects of vascular remodelling: the involvement of all vascular cell types. Exp Physiol 90(4):469–475CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Wang W, Seale P (2016) Control of brown and beige fat development. Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol 17(11):691–702CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Medical Veterinary & Life SciencesUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowUK

Personalised recommendations