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Exp Neurol. 2011 Jun;229(2):494-501. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2011.03.020. Epub 2011 Apr 1.

In vivo imaging of inflammation in the peripheral nervous system by (19)F MRI.

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Department of Neurology, University of Wuerzburg, Josef-Schneider-Str. 11, D-97080 Wuerzburg, Germany.


Visualization of neuroinflammation is still a major task in neuroscience and neurology since inflammatory processes play a central pathophysiological role in many disorders of the nervous system but are not yet covered by conventional imaging techniques. Recently, (19)F magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was introduced as a new cellular imaging technology. In the present study, we established (19)F high field MRI for cell tracking in the peripheral nervous system (PNS) of rats using dedicated MR coils. To mimic focal neuroinflammation, lysolecithin was locally injected into the left sciatic nerve inducing demyelination followed by severe infiltration of monocytes/macrophages from the circulation. Systemic administration of perfluorocarbons (PFC) led to a fluorine signal along the proximal stretch of the affected sciatic nerves in in vivo(19)F MRI which was not seen on the right healthy side. The preferential in vivo uptake of PFC by circulating mononuclear cells was confirmed by density gradient centrifugation of the blood. Removal of nerves with consecutive ex vivo(19)F MRI and additional (19)F spectroscopy for quantification corroborated the localization of the (19)F marker within the injured nerves (1.07×10(18)±1.00×10(18) mean detectable fluorine spins) while contralateral naive nerves did not exhibit any detectable fluorine signal. Histological assessment confirmed the presence of numerous ED1-positive macrophages within the nerve lesions. Control experiments showed that intraneural application of saline led to an inflammatory reaction restricted to the perineurium which could also be detected by (19)F MRI. In conclusion, we show that (19)F MRI is a promising new technology to visualize hematogenous macrophage responses in the nervous system.

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