Advances in translational imaging of the microcirculation

Marie Guerraty, Akanksha Bhargava, Janaka Senarathna, Asher A. Mendelson, Arvind P. Pathak

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The past few decades have seen an explosion in the development and use of methods for imaging the human microcirculation during health and disease. The confluence of innovative imaging technologies, affordable computing power, and economies of scale have ushered in a new era of “translational” imaging that permit us to peer into blood vessels of various organs in the human body. These imaging techniques include near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), positron emission tomography (PET), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that are sensitive to microvascular-derived signals, as well as computed tomography (CT), optical imaging, and ultrasound (US) imaging that are capable of directly acquiring images at, or close to microvascular spatial resolution. Collectively, these imaging modalities enable us to characterize the morphological and functional changes in a tissue's microcirculation that are known to accompany the initiation and progression of numerous pathologies. Although there have been significant advances for imaging the microcirculation in preclinical models, this review focuses on developments in the assessment of the microcirculation in patients with optical imaging, NIRS, PET, US, MRI, and CT, to name a few. The goal of this review is to serve as a springboard for exploring the burgeoning role of translational imaging technologies for interrogating the structural and functional status of the microcirculation in humans, and highlight the breadth of current clinical applications. Making the human microcirculation “visible” in vivo to clinicians and researchers alike will facilitate bench-to-bedside discoveries and enhance the diagnosis and management of disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12683
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • blood vessel
  • clinical
  • computed tomography (CT)
  • hemodynamic
  • hypoxia
  • imaging
  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • microcirculation
  • microvascular
  • near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS)
  • optical imaging
  • perfusion
  • positron emission tomography (PET)
  • translation
  • ultrasound (US)
  • vasculature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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