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Neuroimage. 2013 Nov 15;82:574-85. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.06.019. Epub 2013 Jun 14.

Longitudinal assessment of white matter pathology in the injured mouse spinal cord through ultra-high field (16.4 T) in vivo diffusion tensor imaging.

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The University of Queensland, School of Biomedical Sciences, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia.


This study examined the sensitivity of ultra-high field (16.4 T) diffusion tensor imaging (DTI; 70 μm in-plane resolution, 1mm slice thickness) to evaluate the spatiotemporal development of severe mid-thoracic contusive spinal cord injury (SCI) in mice. In vivo imaging was performed prior to SCI, then again at 2h, 1 day, 3 days, 7 days, and 30 days post-SCI using a Bruker 16.4 T small animal nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer. Cross-sectional spinal cord areas were measured in axial slices and various DTI parameters, i.e. fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), axial diffusivity (λ||) and radial diffusivity (λ⊥), were calculated for the total spared white matter (WM), ventral funiculi (VF), lateral funiculi (LF) and dorsal columns (DCs) and then correlated with histopathology. Cross-sectional area measurements revealed significant atrophy (32% reduction) of the injured spinal cord at the lesion epicentre in the chronic phase of injury. Analysis of diffusion tensor parameters further showed that tissue integrity was most severely affected in the DCs, i.e. the site of immediate impact, which demonstrated a rapid and permanent decrease in FA and λ||. In contrast, DTI parameters for the ventrolateral white matter changed more gradually with time, suggesting that these regions are undergoing more delayed degeneration in a manner that may be amenable to therapeutic intervention. Of all the DTI parameters, λ⊥ was most closely correlated to myelin content whereas changes in FA and λ|| appeared more indicative of axonal integrity, Wallerian degeneration and associated presence of macrophages. We conclude that longitudinal DTI at 16.4T provides a clinically relevant, objective measure for assessing white matter pathology following contusive SCI in mice that may aid the translation of putative neuroprotective strategies into the clinic.


DCs; DTI; Demyelination; FA; LF; MD; MRI; Magnetic resonance imaging; Neurotrauma; SCI; Spinal cord injury; T; Tesla; Tractography; VF; WM; Wallerian degeneration; axial diffusivity; diffusion tensor imaging; dorsal columns; fractional anisotropy; lateral funiculi; magnetic resonance imaging; mean diffusivity; radial diffusivity; spinal cord injury; ventral funiculi; white matter; λ(||); λ(⊥)

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