Synchrotron-based micro-CT imaging of the human lung acinus

Horst Detlef Litzlbauer, Kathrin Korbel, Timothy L. Kline, Steven M. Jorgensen, Diane R. Eaker, Rainer M. Bohle, Erik L. Ritman, Alexander C. Langheinrich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Structural data about the human lung fine structure are mainly based on stereological methods applied to serial sections. As these methods utilize 2D images, which are often not contiguous, they suffer from inaccuracies which are overcome by analysis of 3D micro-CT images of the never-sectioned specimen. The purpose of our study was to generate a complete data set of the intact three-dimensional architecture of the human acinus using high-resolution synchrotron-based micro-CT (synMCT). A human lung was inflation-fixed by formaldehyde ventilation and then scanned in a 64-slice CT over its apex to base extent. Lung samples (8-mm diameter, 10-mm height, N = 12) were punched out, stained with osmium tetroxide, and scanned using synMCT at (4 μm)3 voxel size. The lung functional unit (acinus, N = 8) was segmented from the 3D tomographic image using an automated tree-analysis software program. Morphometric data of the lung were analyzed by ANOVA. Intra-acinar airways branching occurred over 11 generations. The mean acinar volume was 131.3 ± 29.2 mm3 (range, 92.5-171.3 mm3) and the mean acinar surface was calculated with 1012 ± 26 cm2. The airway internal diameter (starting from the bronchiolus terminalis) decreases distally from 0.66 ± 0.04 mm to 0.34 ± 0.06 mm (P < 0.001) and remains constant after the seventh generation (P < 0.5). The length of each generation ranges between 0.52 and 0.93 mm and did not show significant differences between the second and eleventh generation. The branching angle between daughter branches varies between 113-degree and 134-degree without significant differences between the generations (P < 0.3). This study demonstrates the feasibility of quantitating the 3D structure of the human acinus at the spatial resolution readily achievable using synMCT.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1607-1614
Number of pages8
JournalAnatomical Record
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2010


  • Acinus
  • Human lung
  • Imaging
  • micro-CT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biotechnology
  • Anatomy
  • Histology


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