Accurate Micro-computed Tomography Imaging of Pore Spaces in Collagen-based Scaffold

In this work we have used X-ray micro-computed tomography (μCT) as a method to observe the morphology of 3D porous pure collagen and collagen-composite scaffolds useful in tissue engineering. Two aspects of visualizations were taken into consideration: improvement of the scan and investigation of its sensitivity to the scan parameters. Due to the low material density some parts of collagen scaffolds are invisible in a μCT scan. Therefore, here we present different contrast agents, which increase the contrast of the scanned biopolymeric sample for μCT visualization. The increase of contrast of collagenous scaffolds was performed with ceramic hydroxyapatite microparticles (HAp), silver ions (Ag(+)) and silver nanoparticles (Ag-NPs). Since a relatively small change in imaging parameters (e.g. in 3D volume rendering, threshold value and μCT acquisition conditions) leads to a completely different visualized pattern, we have optimized these parameters to obtain the most realistic picture for visual and qualitative evaluation of the biopolymeric scaffold. Moreover, scaffold images were stereoscopically visualized in order to better see the 3D biopolymer composite scaffold morphology. However, the optimized visualization has some discontinuities in zoomed view, which can be problematic for further analysis of interconnected pores by commonly used numerical methods. Therefore, we applied the locally adaptive method to solve discontinuities issue. The combination of contrast agent and imaging techniques presented in this paper help us to better understand the structure and morphology of the biopolymeric scaffold that is crucial in the design of new biomaterials useful in tissue engineering.

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