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Vascular topology and morphology is critical in the regulation of blood flow and the transport of small solutes including oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitric oxide and hydrogen sulfide. Renal vascular morphology is particularly challenging as many arterial walls are partially wrapped by the walls of veins. In the absence of a precise characterization of three-dimensional branching vascular geometry, accurate computational modeling of the intrarenal transport of small diffusible molecules is impossible. An enormous manual effort was required to achieve a relatively precise characterization of rat renal vascular geometry, highlighting the need for an automated method for analysis of branched vasculature morphology to allow characterization of the renal vascular geometry of other species, including humans. We present a semi-supervised method for three-dimensional morphometric analysis of renal vasculature images generated by computed tomography. We derive quantitative vascular attributes important to mass transport between arteries, veins and the renal tissue, and present methods for their computation for a three-dimensional vascular geometry. To validate the algorithm, we compare automated vascular estimates with subjective manual measurements for a portion of rabbit kidney. While increased image resolution can improve outcomes, our results demonstrate that the method can quantify the morphological characteristics of artery-vein pairs, comparing favorably with manual measurements. Similar to the rat, we show that rabbit artery-vein pairs become less intimate along the course of the renal vasculature, but the total wrapped mass transfer coefficient increases then decreases. This new method will facilitate new quantitative physiological models describing the transport of small molecules within the kidney.
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