Magnetic resonance imaging of experimental mouse colitis and association with inflammatory activity

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Background:Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are the major chronic inflammatory bowel diseases affecting the gastrointestinal tract in humans. Imaging techniques such as endoscopy and computed tomography are used to monitor disease activity. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is emerging as a diagnostic modality, and studies have shown that MRI can be used in the diagnostic procedure of patients with inflammatory bowel disease. The aim of the present study was to investigate the role of MRI in quantitatively reflecting inflammation in an experimental mouse colitis model. Methods: Colonic inflammation was induced by exposing mice to dextran sulfate sodium. MRI was used to assess colon wall thickness, T2-weighted (T2w) signal, and contrast-enhanced T1-weighted (T1w) signal in inflamed and healthy animals in vivo. Haptoglobin and interleukin-1β served as systemic and local inflammatory markers, and macroscopic ex vivo scoring of the colon was performed to assess colonic inflammation. Results: Dextran sulfate sodium-exposed animals displayed increased levels of inflammatory markers and higher inflammatory score compared with healthy animals. Colon wall thickness and contrast-enhanced T1w signal were significantly increased in dextran sulfate sodium-exposed compared with healthy animals. In addition, the T2w signal was positively correlated with haptoglobin levels and colon wall thickness in the inflamed animals. Conclusions: Our results show that MRI can be used to depict healthy and inflamed mouse colon and that the T2w signal, contrast-enhanced T1w signal, and colon wall thickness may be used to characterize inflammation in experimental colitis. These potential biomarkers may be useful in the evaluation of putative drugs in longitudinal studies in both mice and humans.

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