Kubínová, L., Mao, X. W., Janáček, J. and Archambeau, J. O. Stereology Techniques in Radiation Biology. Radiat. Res. 160, 110–119 (2003).
Clinicians involved in conventional radiation therapy are very concerned about the dose–response relationships of normal tissues. Before proceeding to new clinical protocols, radiation biologists involved with conformal proton therapy believe it is necessary to quantify the dose response and tolerance of the organs and tissues that will be irradiated. An important focus is on the vasculature. This presentation reviews the methodology and format of using confocal microscopy and stereological methods to quantify tissue parameters, cell number, tissue volume and surface area, and vessel length using the microvasculature as a model tissue. Stereological methods and their concepts are illustrated using an ongoing study of the dose response of the microvessels in proton-irradiated hemibrain. Methods for estimating the volume of the brain and the brain cortex, the total number of endothelial cells in cortical microvessels, the length of cortical microvessels, and the total surface area of cortical microvessel walls are presented step by step in a way understandable for readers with little mathematical background. It is shown that stereological techniques, based on a sound theoretical basis, are powerful and reliable and have been used successfully.