Purpose: Myocardial healing following myocardial infarction (MI) is a complex process that is yet to be fully understood. Clinical attempts in regeneration of the injured myocardium using cardiac stem cells faced major challenges, calling for a better understanding of the processes involved at a more basic level in order to foster translation.
Procedures: We examined the feasibility of volumetric optoacoustic tomography (VOT) in studying healing of the myocardium in different models of MI, including permanent occlusion (PO) of the left coronary artery, temporary occlusion (ischemia-reperfusion-I/R) and infarcted c-kit mutants, a genetic mouse model with impaired cardiac healing. Murine hearts were imaged at 100 Hz frame rate using 800 nm excitation wavelength, corresponding to the peak absorption of indocyanine green (ICG) in plasma and the isosbestic point of haemoglobin.
Results: The non-invasive real-time volumetric imaging capabilities of VOT have allowed the detection of significant variations in the pulmonary transit time (PTT), a parameter affected by MI, across different murine models. Upon intravenous injection of ICG, we were able to track alterations in cardiac perfusion in I/R models, which were absent in wild-type (wt) PO or kitW/kitW-v PO mice. The wt-PO and I/R models further exhibited irregularities in their cardiac cycles.
Conclusions: Clear differences in the PTT, ICG perfusion and cardiac cycle patterns were identified between the different models and days post MI. Overall, the results highlight the unique capacity of VOT for multi-parametric characterization of morphological and functional changes in murine models of MI.

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