Collagen Fibril Orientation in Tissue Specimens From Atherosclerotic Plaque Explored Using Small Angle X-Ray Scattering

Herbert Silva, Christopher Tassone, Elsie Gyang Ross, Jason T. Lee, Wei Zhou, Drew Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Atherosclerotic plaques can gradually develop in certain arteries. Disruption of fibrous tissue in plaques can result in plaque rupture and thromboembolism, leading to heart attacks and strokes. Collagen fibrils are important tissue building blocks and tissue strength depends on how fibrils are oriented. Fibril orientation in plaque tissue may potentially influence vulnerability to disruption. While X-ray scattering has previously been used to characterize fibril orientations in soft tissues and bones, it has never been used for characterization of human atherosclerotic plaque tissue. This study served to explore fibril orientation in specimens from human plaques using small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS). Plaque tissue was extracted from human femoral and carotid arteries, and each tissue specimen contained a region of calcified material. Three-dimensional (3D) collagen fibril orientation was determined along scan lines that started away from and then extended toward a given calcification. Fibrils were found to be oriented mainly in the circumferential direction of the plaque tissue at the majority of locations away from calcifications. However, in a number of cases, the dominant fibril direction differed near a calcification, changing from circumferential to longitudinal or thickness (radial) directions. Further study is needed to elucidate how these fibril orientations may influence plaque tissue stress-strain behavior and vulnerability to rupture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Biomechanical Engineering
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022


  • X-ray scattering
  • atherosclerosis
  • collagen fibrils
  • degree of orientation
  • plaque

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Physiology (medical)


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