Open Access Methodology article

High-resolution ex vivo magnetic resonance angiography: a feasibility study on biological and medical tissues

Anne S Rasmussen1, Henrik Lauridsen12, Christoffer Laustsen1, Bjarke G Jensen2, Steen F Pedersen1, Lars Uhrenholt3, Lene WT Boel3, Niels Uldbjerg4, Tobias Wang2 and Michael Pedersen1*

Author Affiliations

1 MR-research Centre, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark

2 Department of Biology, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark

3 Department of Forensic Medicine, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark

4 Department of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark

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BMC Physiology 2010, 10:3  doi:10.1186/1472-6793-10-3

Published: 12 March 2010



In biomedical sciences, ex vivo angiography is a practical mean to elucidate vascular structures three-dimensionally with simultaneous estimation of intravascular volume. The objectives of this study were to develop a magnetic resonance (MR) method for ex vivo angiography and to compare the findings with computed tomography (CT). To demonstrate the usefulness of this method, examples are provided from four different tissues and species: the human placenta, a rice field eel, a porcine heart and a turtle.


The optimal solution for ex vivo MR angiography (MRA) was a compound containing gelatine (0.05 g/mL), the CT contrast agent barium sulphate (0.43 mol/L) and the MR contrast agent gadoteric acid (2.5 mmol/L). It was possible to perform angiography on all specimens. We found that ex vivo MRA could only be performed on fresh tissue because formalin fixation makes the blood vessels permeable to the MR contrast agent.


Ex vivo MRA provides high-resolution images of fresh tissue and delineates fine structures that we were unable to visualise by CT. We found that MRA provided detailed information similar to or better than conventional CTA in its ability to visualize vessel configuration while avoiding interfering signals from adjacent bones. Interestingly, we found that vascular tissue becomes leaky when formalin-fixed, leading to increased permeability and extravascular leakage of MR contrast agent.