Endothelial cells (EC) constitute a single layer of the lining of blood vessels and play an important role in maintaining cardiovascular homeostasis. Endothelial dysfunction has been recognized as a primary or secondary cause of many diseases and it manifests itself, among others, by increased lipid content or a change in the lipid composition in the EC. Therefore, the analysis of cellular lipids is crucial to understand the mechanisms of disease development. Tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α)-induced inflammation of EC alters the lipid content of cells, which can be detected by Raman spectroscopy. By default, lipid detection is carried out in a label-free manner, and these compounds are recognized based on their spectral profile characteristics. We consider (3S,3′S)-astaxanthin (AXT), a natural dye with a characteristic resonance spectrum, as a new Raman probe for the detection of lipids in the EC of various vascular beds, i.e., the aorta, brain and heart. AXT colocalizes with lipids in cells, enabling imaging of lipid-rich cellular components in a time-dependent manner using laser power 10 times lower than that commonly used to measure biological samples. The results show that AXT can be used to study lipids distribution in EC at various locations, suggesting its use as a universal probe for studying cellular lipids using Raman spectroscopy. The use of labeled Raman imaging of lipids in the EC of various organs could contribute to their easier identification and to a better understanding of the development and progression of various vascular diseases, and it could also potentially improve their diagnosis and treatment.
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