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Neuroimage. 2010 Feb 1;49(3):2340-51. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.10.027. Epub 2009 Oct 19.

Longitudinal characterization of brain atrophy of a Huntington's disease mouse model by automated morphological analyses of magnetic resonance images.

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Department of Radiology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


Mouse models of human diseases play crucial roles in understanding disease mechanisms and developing therapeutic measures. Huntington's disease (HD) is characterized by striatal atrophy that begins long before the onset of motor symptoms. In symptomatic HD, striatal volumes decline predictably with disease course. Thus, imaging based volumetric measures have been proposed as outcomes for presymptomatic as well as symptomatic clinical trials of HD. Magnetic resonance imaging of the mouse brain structures is becoming widely available and has been proposed as one of the biomarkers of disease progression and drug efficacy testing. However, three-dimensional and quantitative morphological analyses of the brains are not straightforward. In this paper, we describe a tool for automated segmentation and voxel-based morphological analyses of the mouse brains. This tool was applied to a well-established mouse model of Huntington's disease, the R6/2 transgenic mouse strain. Comparison between the automated and manual segmentation results showed excellent agreement in most brain regions. The automated method was able to sensitively detect atrophy as early as 4 weeks of age and accurately follow disease progression. Comparison between ex vivo and in vivo MRI suggests that the ex vivo end-point measurement of brain morphology is also a valid approach except for the morphology of the ventricles. This is the first report of longitudinal characterization of brain atrophy in a mouse model of Huntington's disease by using automatic morphological analysis.

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