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Representative Results





Immunology and Infection

Femur Window Chamber Model for In Vivo Cell Tracking in the Murine Bone Marrow

Published: July 28th, 2016



1Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, 2Department of Medical Biophysics, University of Toronto, 3Techna Institute, University Health Network
* These authors contributed equally

The protocol describes a novel murine femur window chamber model that can be used to track movement of cells in the femoral bone marrow in vivo. Intravital multiphoton fluorescence microscopy is used to image three components of the femoral bone marrow (vasculature, collagen matrix, and neutrophils) over time.

Bone marrow is a complex organ that contains various hematopoietic and non-hematopoietic cells. These cells are involved in many biological processes, including hematopoiesis, immune regulation and tumor regulation. Commonly used methods for understanding cellular actions in the bone marrow, such as histology and blood counts, provide static information rather than capturing the dynamic action of multiple cellular components in vivo. To complement the standard methods, a window chamber (WC)-based model was developed to enable serial in vivo imaging of cells and structures in the murine bone marrow. This protocol describes a surgical procedure for installing the WC in the femur, in order to facilitate long-term optical access to the femoral bone marrow. In particular, to demonstrate its experimental utility, this WC approach was used to image and track neutrophils within the vascular network of the femur, thereby providing a novel method to visualize and quantify immune cell trafficking and regulation in the bone marrow. This method can be applied to study various biological processes in the murine bone marrow, such as hematopoiesis, stem cell transplantation, and immune responses in pathological conditions, including cancer.

Bone marrow is an important organ involved in hematopoiesis and immune regulation. It consists of a hematopoietic component containing hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs), and a stromal component containing non-hematopoietic progenitor cells that give rise to mesenchymal cells1. Two-thirds of hematopoietic activity is dedicated to the generation of myeloid cells2. In particular, a large number of neutrophils are produced in the bone marrow, with 1-2 x 1011 cells generated per day in a normal adult human2. Neutrophils are the first line of defense against microbial infections and are mostly reserved in the bone ma....

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NOTE: All animal work was carried out under protocol #2615 approved by the University Health Network Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.

1. Surgical Preparation of Mouse

  1. Prior to surgery, sterilize all surgical instruments and the window chamber (WC) by autoclaving. Supplement the drinking water with 50 mg/kg body weight of amoxicillin 2 days prior to surgery. Inject the mouse with 0.1 mg/kg body weight of buprenorphine intraperitoneally 4 hr prior to surgery.
  2. Anesthetize the athymic.......

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Murine femoral bone marrow is successfully accessed using the WC to enable visualization of individual neutrophils and vascular networks. Figure 1 shows the WC instrument and describes the surgical procedure, which involves exposure of the femoral bone and thinning of cortical bone to gain optical access inside the bone. The surgery is well-tolerated in mice; they were assessed for adverse physical reactions, such as hind limb swelling, non-weight bearing on limb, self-mu.......

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Real-time, serial imaging of the dynamic cellular processes in bone marrow provides information that is otherwise challenging to obtain using conventional techniques such as histology and total blood counts. The femur WC model described here provides unique opportunities to investigate cellular and structural alterations in the bone marrow over time. Although a femur WC model has been previously reported, our novel design provides a larger imaging field of view and smaller overall WC size, which are more compatible for u.......

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The authors would like to thank the Advanced Optical Microscopy Facility ( at the University Health Network for assistance with microscopy, and Mr. Jason Ellis from the Princess Margaret Cancer Center Machine Shop for manufacturing the WC and the imaging stage. We would also like to thank Dr. Iris Kulbatski for manuscript editing.


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
NRCNU-F athymic nude mice Taconic Ncr nude 8-10 weeks old, female
Saline Baxter JB1302P
Ketamine hydrochloride Bioniche Animal Health Canada, Inc.  DIN 01989529
Xylazine Bayer HealthCare, Bayer Inc. DIN 02169592
Surgical drape Proxima DYNJP2405
Electric heating pad Life Brand 57800827375
Stereomicroscope Leica Leica M60
Eye ointment (tear gel) Novartis  T296/2
7.5% betadine Purdue Frederick Co 67618-151-16
70% isopropyl alcohol GreenField P010IP7P
10% betadine Purdue Frederick Co 67618-150-05
Scalpel handle (#3) Fine Science Tools 10003-12
Scalpel blade (#15) VWR 89176-368
Spring Scissors curved Fine science Tools 15023-10
Baby-Mixter Hemostat Fine science Tools 13013-14
Fine Scissors Fine science Tools 14094-11
Extra Fine Graefe Forceps Fine science Tools 11151-10
Halsted-Mosquito Hemostats Fine science Tools 13008-12
Micro-drill Harvard Apparaus 72-6065
Micro-drill burrs Fine Science Tools 19007-14
Femur window chamber PMCC machine shop custom design 9.1mm- 8.5mm- 7.5 mm (outer to inner diameter), 2.16 mm (radius of two holes), 13.9mm (distance between two holes), 0.7mm (thickness)
U-shaped bar PMCC machine shop custom design 13.8mm (length), 1.6 mm (width), 3.7mm (height)
Coverglass (8mm) Warner Instruments  HBIO 64-0701 CS-8R
Retaining ring (8mm) ACKLANDS GRAINGER UNSPSC # 31163202
Nuts (hexagon stainless steel) Fastenal 70701
Dental cement 3M RelyX U200
Suture (5-0 Monosof black) Covioien SN-5698
Halsey needle holder Fine Science Tools 12501-13
Buprenorphine (Temgesic) Reckitt Benckiser DIN 0281251
Meloxicam (Metacam) Boehringer Ingelheim DIN 02240463
Amoxicillin (Clamavox) Pfizer DIN 02027879
FITC-Dextran Sigma-Aldrich FD2000S
APC- Anti-Mouse Ly-6G (Gr-1)  eBioscience 17-9668
Two-photon microscope LSM 710 Carl Zeiss Zeiss LSM 710 NLO
Imaging stage PMCC machine shop custom design 15.9cm (length), 11cm (width), 0,9cm (height)
Imaris software Bitplane Imaris 8.0 Image analysis software described in Section 3 of the Protocol 
Zen 2012 Zeiss Zen 2012 Image acqusition software described in Section 2 of the Protocol 

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