PloS one

Rapid Quantification of 3D Collagen Fiber Alignment and Fiber Intersection Correlations with High Sensitivity.

PMID 26158674


Metastatic cancers aggressively reorganize collagen in their microenvironment. For example, radially orientated collagen fibers have been observed surrounding tumor cell clusters in vivo. The degree of fiber alignment, as a consequence of this remodeling, has often been difficult to quantify. In this paper, we present an easy to implement algorithm for accurate detection of collagen fiber orientation in a rapid pixel-wise manner. This algorithm quantifies the alignment of both computer generated and actual collagen fiber networks of varying degrees of alignment within 5°°. We also present an alternative easy method to calculate the alignment index directly from the standard deviation of fiber orientation. Using this quantitative method for determining collagen alignment, we demonstrate that the number of collagen fiber intersections has a negative correlation with the degree of fiber alignment. This decrease in intersections of aligned fibers could explain why cells move more rapidly along aligned fibers than unaligned fibers, as previously reported. Overall, our paper provides an easier, more quantitative and quicker way to quantify fiber orientation and alignment, and presents a platform in studying effects of matrix and cellular properties on fiber alignment in complex 3D environments.