Micro-computed tomography (CT) enables three-dimensional (3D) imaging of complex soft tissue structures, but current protocols used to achieve this goal preclude cellular and molecular phenotyping of the tissue. Here we describe a radiolucent cryostage that permits micro-CT imaging of unfixed frozen human lung samples at an isotropic voxel size of (11 µm)3 under conditions where the sample is maintained frozen at −30°C during imaging. The cryostage was tested for thermal stability to maintain samples frozen up to 8 h. This report describes the methods used to choose the materials required for cryostage construction and demonstrates that whole genome mRNA integrity and expression are not compromised by exposure to micro-CT radiation and that the tissue can be used for immunohistochemistry. The new cryostage provides a novel method enabling integration of 3D tissue structure with cellular and molecular analysis to facilitate the identification of molecular determinants of disease.
NEW & NOTEWORTHY The described micro-CT cryostage provides a novel way to study the three-dimensional lung structure preserved without the effects of fixatives while enabling subsequent studies of the cellular matrix composition and gene expression. This approach will, for the first time, enable researchers to study structural changes of lung tissues that occur with disease and correlate them with changes in gene or protein signatures.