Intratracheal instillation (IT) of bleomycin is a widely used experimental model for lung fibrosis. In this study we describe the time-course of bleomycin-induced lung fibrosis in mice using computer-assisted morphometry. C57BI/6J mice were treated with a single IT dose of bleomycin or control saline. Animals were killed 3, 6, 14 and 21 days post-IT. Lung injury was evaluated by analysis of bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid, hydroxyproline concentration in the lung, routine light microscopic examination resulting in a semiquantitative morphological index (SMI) of lung injury, and quantitative morphological measurements (fibrosis fraction and alveolar wall area fraction) aided by OPTIMAS image analysis software. Changes in BAL fluid attributed to bleomycin treatment include increased total cell count (days 14 and 21), and increased percentage of neutrophils (days 3 and 6) followed by a sustained increase in lymphocytes (days 6, 14 and 21). Hydroxyproline levels increased in bleomycin-treated mice on days 14 and 21. Median SMI grades were significantly elevated on days 3, 14 and 21. Computer-assisted morphometry demonstrated a 3-fold increase in fibrosis fraction and a 1.3-fold increase in wall area fraction in bleomycin-treated mice on day 14, with no further increase on day 21. These data also demonstrate that the most suitable time point for assessing lung fibrosis in this model is 14 days after IT instillation of bleomycin, based on the observation that at 14 days the animals developed extensive fibrosis, but had less variability in the fibrotic response and lower mortality than later at 21 days. Computer-assisted morphometry provides objective and quantitative measurements that are a useful tool for the evaluation of bleomycin-induced lung injury.
- Computer-assisted morphometry
- Interstitial lung disease