Micro Computed Tomography Detects Changes in Liver Density in Control and in Prediabetes Rats

M. C. Franco, A. R. Fonseca, J. Sacramento, B. Melo, S. V. Conde, M. P. Guarino

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Fatty liver disease is an early event in the development of insulin resistance that predicts the presence and progression of the metabolic syndrome. In humans, fatty liver diagnosis is usually performed by imaging techniques based on ultrasound, computed tomography and magnetic resonance. Rodent models are often used in metabolic research allowing access to tissue biopsies however, studies describing ex vivo computed tomography of biological samples are scarce. X-ray Micro Computed Tomography (Micro-CT) is an imaging technique that reveals the internal structure of materials in great detail, also allowing a quantitative analysis of properties such as density measured as arbitrary Hounsfield Units (HU). Herein, we tested the hypothesis that Micro-CT detects changes in liver tomographic density induced by metabolic diseases and its reversal upon therapeutic surgical intervention. Two groups of male Wistar rats were used: a group submitted to a hypercaloric diet for 14 weeks to induce prediabetes and the control group submitted to a standard diet). The animals were randomly submitted to a surgical treatment and maintained on their respective diets after the procedure for 11 more weeks. Liver and adipose tissues samples were excised and samples were scanned using a compact X-ray micro-CT scanner. The projection images obtained were analyzed and reconstructed and values of HU density were calculated after calibration for all samples. Results showed that liver density was lower in prediabetes rats (74.8±5.87 HU) than in control animals (97.2±6.3 HU), p<0.05. Liver density was not affected by surgical treatment in control animals however, in prediabetes animals, the surgical therapy restored liver density to control values. Visceral fat density was significantly lower than hepatic density, as expected and was affected, neither by the disease condition nor by the surgical treatment. We concluded that micro-CT detects metabolic disease-induced changes in liver density, but not in visceral adipose tissue density in biopsy samples ex vivo. Changes in hepatic density, assessed by micro-CT, correlate with disease state and with therapeutic interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-112
Number of pages7
JournalProcedia Manufacturing
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • HU
  • liver density
  • metabolic syndrome
  • micro computed tomography


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