Relationship between lipid droplets size and integrated optical density

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Federico Boschi *
Vanni Rizzatti
Elena Zoico
Tommaso Montanari
Mauro Zamboni
Andrea Sbarbati
Monica Colitti
(*) Corresponding Author:
Federico Boschi |


Lipid accumulation is largely investigated due to its role in many human diseases. The attention is mainly focused on the lipid droplets (LDs), spherical cytoplasmic organelles, which are devoted to the storage of the lipids. The amount of lipid content is often evaluated by measuring LDs size and/or the integrated optical density (IOD) in cultured cells. Both evaluations are directly associated to the lipid content and therefore they are correlated to each other, but a lack of theoretical relationship between size and IOD was observed in literature. Here we investigated the size-IOD relationship of LDs observed in microscopical images of cultured cells. The experimental data were obtained from immature and differentiated 3T3-L1 murine cells, which have been extensively used in studies on adipogenesis. A simple model based on the spherical shape of the LDs and the Lambert-Beer law, which describes the light absorption by an optical thick material, leads to a mathematical relationship. Despite only light rays’ absorption was considered in the model, neglecting their scattering, a very good agreement between the theoretical curve and the experimental data was found. Moreover, a computational simulation corroborates the model indicating the validity of the mathematically theoretical relationship between size and IOD. The theoretical model could be used to calculate the absorption coefficient in the LDs population and it could be applied to seek for morphologically and functionally LDs subpopulations. The identification of LDs dynamic by measuring size and IOD could be related to different pathophysiological conditions and useful for understand cellular lipid-associated diseases.

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