Scanning electron microscopy of macerated tissue to visualize the extracellular matrix.

Document Type


Publication Date




Journal Title

Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE

MeSH Headings

Animals, Cardiomyopathies, Cell Movement, Extracellular Matrix, Fibrosis, Humans, Mice, Microscopy, Electron, Scanning, Myocardium, Signal Transduction, Swine


Fibrosis is a component of all forms of heart disease regardless of etiology, and while much progress has been made in the field of cardiac matrix biology, there are still major gaps related to how the matrix is formed, how physiological and pathological remodeling differ, and most importantly how matrix dynamics might be manipulated to promote healing and inhibit fibrosis. There is currently no treatment option for controlling, preventing, or reversing cardiac fibrosis. Part of the reason is likely the sheer complexity of cardiac scar formation, such as occurs after myocardial infarction to immediately replace dead or dying cardiomyocytes. The extracellular matrix itself participates in remodeling by activating resident cells and also by helping to guide infiltrating cells to the defunct lesion. The matrix is also a storage locker of sorts for matricellular proteins that are crucial to normal matrix turnover, as well as fibrotic signaling. The matrix has additionally been demonstrated to play an electromechanical role in cardiac tissue. Most techniques for assessing fibrosis are not qualitative in nature, but rather provide quantitative results that are useful for comparing two groups but that do not provide information related to the underlying matrix structure. Highlighted here is a technique for visualizing cardiac matrix ultrastructure. Scanning electron microscopy of decellularized heart tissue reveals striking differences in structure that might otherwise be missed using traditional quantitative research methods.