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Multispectral Imaging Enables Characterization of Intrahepatic Macrophages in Patients With Chronic Liver Disease

Authors: Saldarriaga, Omar A.; Freiberg, Benjamin; Krishnan, Santhoshi; Rao, Arvind; Burks, Jared; Booth, Adam L.; Dye, Bradley; Utay, Netanya; Ferguson, Monique; Akil, Abdellah; Yi, Minkyung; Beretta, Laura; Stevenson, Heather L.

Online: https://aasldpubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/hep4.1494

Issue: Hepatol Commun. 2020 Mar 3;4(5):708-723.


Intrahepatic macrophages influence the composition of the microenvironment, host immune response to liver injury, and development of fibrosis. Compared with stellate cells, the role of macrophages in the development of fibrosis remains unclear. Multispectral imaging allows detection of multiple markers in situ in human formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue. This cutting-edge technology is ideal for analyzing human liver tissues, as it allows spectral unmixing of fluorophore signals, subtraction of auto-fluorescence, and preservation of hepatic architecture. We analyzed five different antibodies commonly observed on macrophage populations (CD68, MAC387, CD163, CD14, and CD16). After optimization of the monoplex stains and development of a Spectral Library, we combined all of the antibodies into a multiplex protocol and used them to stain biopsies collected from representative patients with chronic liver diseases, including chronic hepatitis C, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, and autoimmune hepatitis. Various imaging modalities were tested, including cell phenotyping, tissue segmentation, t-distributed stochastic neighbor embedding plots, and phenotype matrices that facilitated comparison and visualization of the identified macrophage and other cellular profiles. We then tested the feasibility of this platform to analyze numerous regions of interest from liver biopsies with multiple patients per group, using batch analysis algorithms. Five populations showed significant differences between patients positive for hepatitis C virus with advanced fibrosis when compared with controls. Three of these were significantly increased in patients with advanced fibrosis when compared to controls, and these included CD163+CD16+, CD68+, and CD68+MAC387+. Conclusion: Spectral imaging microscopy is a powerful tool that enables in situ analysis of macrophages and other cells in human liver biopsies and may lead to more personalized therapeutic approaches in the future.