Collagen Fiber Orientation and Dispersion in the Upper Cervix of Non-Pregnant and Pregnant Women
The structural integrity of the cervix in pregnancy is necessary for carrying a pregnancy until term, and the organization of human cervical tissue collagen likely plays an important role in the tissue’s structural function. Collagen fibers in the cervical extracellular matrix exhibit preferential directionality, and this collagen network ultrastructure is hypothesized to reorient and remodel during cervical softening and dilation at time of parturition. Within the cervix, the upper half is substantially loaded during pregnancy and is where the premature funneling starts to happen. To characterize the cervical collagen ultrastructure for the upper half of the human cervix, we imaged whole axial tissue slices from non-pregnant and pregnant women undergoing hysterectomy or cesarean hysterectomy respectively using optical coherence tomography (OCT) and implemented a pixel-wise fiber orientation tracking method to measure the distribution of fiber orientation. The collagen fiber orientation maps show that there are two radial zones and the preferential fiber direction is circumferential in a dominant outer radial zone. The OCT data also reveal that there are two anatomic regions with distinct fiber orientation and dispersion properties. These regions are labeled: Region 1—the posterior and anterior quadrants in the outer radial zone and Region 2—the left and right quadrants in the outer radial zone and all quadrants in the inner radial zone. When comparing samples from nulliparous vs multiparous women, no differences in these fiber properties were noted. Pregnant tissue samples exhibit an overall higher fiber dispersion and more heterogeneous fiber properties within the sample than non-pregnant tissue. Collectively, these OCT data suggest that collagen fiber dispersion and directionality may play a role in cervical remodeling during pregnancy, where distinct remodeling properties exist according to anatomical quadrant.
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- PLoS ONE