The clinical use of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) has proven to be a strong diagnostic tool in the field of neurology. The reliability of these methods to confirm clinical diagnoses has guided preclinical research to utilize these techniques for the characterization of animal disease models.
Previously, we demonstrated that an endothelial cell-specific ablation of the murine Serum Response Factor (SrfiECKO) results in blood brain barrier (BBB) breakdown and hemorrhagic stroke. Taking advantage of this mouse model we here perform a comprehensive longitudinal, multiparametric and in vivo imaging approach to reveal pathophysiological processes occurring before and during the appearance of cerebral microbleeds using combined PET and MRI. We complement our imaging results with data regarding animal behavior and immunohistochemistry.
Our results demonstrate diffusion abnormalities in the cortical brain tissue prior to the onset of cerebral microbleeds. Diffusion reductions were accompanied by significant increments of [18F]FAZA uptake before the onset of the lesions in T2WI. The Open Field behavioral tests revealed reduced activity of SrfiECKO animals, whereas histology confirmed the presence of hemorrhages in cortical regions of the mouse brain and iron deposition at lesion sites with increased hypoxia inducible factor 1α, CD31 and glial fibrillary acidic protein expression.
For the first time, we performed a thorough evaluation of the prodromal period before the occurrence of spontaneous cerebral microbleeds. Using in vivo PET and MRI, we show the pathological tissue changes that occur previous to gross blood brain barrier (BBB) disruption and breakage. In addition, our results show that apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) reduction may be an early biomarker of BBB disruption proposing an alternate clinical interpretation. Furthermore, our findings remark the usefulness of this novel SrfiECKO mouse model to study underlying mechanisms of hemorrhagic stroke.