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Neuroimage. 2010 Apr 1;50(2):456-64. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.12.107. Epub 2010 Jan 4.

In vivo MRI of neural cell migration dynamics in the mouse brain.

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  • 1Kimmel Center for Biology and Medicine at the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, NY, NY 10016, USA.


Multipotent neuroblasts (NBs) are produced throughout life by neural stem cells in the forebrain subventricular zone (SVZ), and are able to travel long distances to the olfactory bulb. On arrival in the bulb, migrating NBs normally replace olfactory neurons, raising interest in their potential for novel cell replacement therapies in various disease conditions. An understanding of the migratory capabilities of NBs is therefore important, but as yet quantitative in vivo measurement of cell migration has not been possible. In this study, targeted intracerebral injections of iron-oxide particles to the mouse SVZ were used to label resident NBs in situ, and their migration was tracked noninvasively over time with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Quantitative intensity metrics were employed to identify labeled cells and to show that cells are able to travel at speeds up to 100 microm/h en route to the olfactory bulb, but that distribution through the olfactory bulb occurs at a much slower rate. In addition, comparison of histological and MRI measures of iron-oxide particle distribution were in excellent agreement. Immunohistochemistry analysis 1-3 weeks after labeling revealed that the majority of labeled cells in the olfactory bulb were immature neurons, although iron-oxide particles were also found in astrocytes and microglia. This work indicates that dynamic measurements of endogenous cell migration can be made with MRI and represents the first in vivo measurement of NB migration rates. The use of MRI in future studies tracking endogenous NB cells will permit a more complete evaluation of their role during homeostasis at various developmental stages and during disease progression.

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