Micro-computed tomography evaluation of human fat grafts in nude mice

Michael T. Chung, Jeong S. Hyun, David D. Lo, Daniel T. Montoro, Masakazu Hasegawa, Benjamin Levi, Michael Januszyk, Michael T. Longaker, Derrick C. Wan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Background: Although autologous fat grafting has revolutionized the field of soft tissue reconstruction and augmentation, long-term maintenance of fat grafts is unpredictable. Recent studies have reported survival rates of fat grafts to vary anywhere between 10% and 80% over time. The present study evaluated the long-term viability of human fat grafts in a murine model using a novel imaging technique allowing for in vivo volumetric analysis. Methods: Human fat grafts were prepared from lipoaspirate samples using the Coleman technique. Fat was injected subcutaneously into the scalp of 10 adult Crl:NU-Foxn1 nu CD-1 male mice. Micro-computed tomography (CT) was performed immediately following injection and then weekly thereafter. Fat volume was rendered by reconstructing a three-dimensional (3D) surface through cubic-spline interpolation. Specimens were also harvested at various time points and sections were prepared and stained with hematoxylin and eosin (H&E), for macrophages using CD68 and for the cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1). Finally, samples were explanted at 8-and 12-week time points to validate calculated micro-CT volumes. Results: Weekly CT scanning demonstrated progressive volume loss over the time course. However, volumetric analysis at the 8-and 12-week time points stabilized, showing an average of 62.2% and 60.9% survival, respectively. Gross analysis showed the fat graft to be healthy and vascularized. H&E analysis and staining for CD68 showed minimal inflammatory reaction with viable adipocytes. Immunohistochemical staining with anti-human CB1 antibodies confirmed human origin of the adipocytes. Conclusions: Studies assessing the fate of autologous fat grafts in animals have focused on nonimaging modalities, including histological and biochemical analyses, which require euthanasia of the animals. In this study, we have demonstrated the ability to employ micro-CT for 3D reconstruction and volumetric analysis of human fat grafts in a mouse model. Importantly, this model provides a platform for subsequent study of fat manipulation and soft tissue engineering.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-232
Number of pages6
JournalTissue Engineering - Part C: Methods
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2013
Externally publishedYes


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