Imaging of Hydrogel Microsphere Structure and Foreign Body Response Based on Endogenous X-Ray Phase Contrast

Alyssa A. Appel, Veronica Ibarra, Sami I. Somo, Jeffery C. Larson, Alfred B. Garson, Huifeng Guan, John Patrick McQuilling, Zhong Zhong, Mark A. Anastasio, Emmanuel C. Opara, Eric M. Brey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Transplantation of functional islets encapsulated in stable biomaterials has the potential to cure Type I diabetes. However, the success of these materials requires the ability to quantitatively evaluate their stability. Imaging techniques that enable monitoring of biomaterial performance are critical to further development in the field. X-ray phase-contrast (XPC) imaging is an emerging class of X-ray techniques that have shown significant promise for imaging biomaterial and soft tissue structures. In this study, XPC imaging techniques are shown to enable three dimensional (3D) imaging and evaluation of islet volume, alginate hydrogel structure, and local soft tissue features ex vivo. Rat islets were encapsulated in sterile ultrapurified alginate systems produced using a high-throughput microfluidic system. The encapsulated islets were implanted in omentum pouches created in a rodent model of type 1 diabetes. Microbeads were imaged with XPC imaging before implantation and as whole tissue samples after explantation from the animals. XPC microcomputed tomography (μCT) was performed with systems using tube-based and synchrotron X-ray sources. Islets could be identified within alginate beads and the islet volume was quantified in the synchrotron-based μCT volumes. Omental adipose tissue could be distinguished from inflammatory regions resulting from implanted beads in harvested samples with both XPC imaging techniques. Individual beads and the local encapsulation response were observed and quantified using quantitative measurements, which showed good agreement with histology. The 3D structure of the microbeads could be characterized with XPC imaging and failed beads could also be identified. These results point to the substantial potential of XPC imaging as a tool for imaging biomaterials in small animal models and deliver a critical step toward in vivo imaging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1038-1048
Number of pages11
JournalTissue Engineering - Part C: Methods
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • alginate hydrogel
  • analyzer-based imaging
  • MicroCT
  • X-ray phase contrast

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Biomedical Engineering


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