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This image shows the three dimensional arrangement of endomysial collagen fibres in the left ventricle free wall. The endomysium was studied by means of scanning electron microscopy after sodium hydroxide maceration in rabbit non-contracted heart. This method of maceration allowed the isolation of collagen fibres, the elimination of all other tissue elements, and the preservation of endomysial structure and position. The technique allowed the visualisation of a continuous three dimensional network of collagen fibres that delimited wide and empty lacunae. The morphological evaluation showed that this network consisted of endomysial fibres that enwrapped the contiguous spaces devoid of myocytes (muscular lacunae (ml)) and capillaries (capillary lacunae (cl)) that were eliminated by the maceration (× 2000, bar = 10 μm). This thin web appeared as a continuous structure that completely separated one myocyte from another and enveloped both myocytes and capillaries. This image also showed that the collagen connections distributed among heart capillaries and myocytes were not only represented by isolated twisted struts, as usually described, but were actually formed by laminae that extended over the entire cell surface. This study also allowed the observation of the struts that were often reported in previous studies performed using other microscopic techniques.
The peculiar three dimensional architecture shown in this image ensures protection against myocyte overstretch, and may provide one of the morphological bases of cardiac muscular compliance.