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Keywords:

  • steady-state contrast-enhanced MRI;
  • vessel density imaging;
  • vessel size imaging;
  • middle cerebral artery occlusion;
  • angiogenesis

During stroke, the reduction of blood flow leads to undersupply of oxygen and nutrients and, finally, to cell death, but also to upregulation of pro-angiogenic molecules and vascular remodeling. However, the temporal profile of vascular changes after stroke is still poorly understood. Here, we optimized steady-state contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (SSCE MRI) and followed the dynamic changes in vascular architecture for up to 4 weeks after transient middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO) in rats. Using MRI diffusion measurements and the changes of transversal relaxation rates ΔR2 and inline image after injection of a superparamagnetic contrast agent, SSCE MRI provided several hemodynamic parameters: relative cerebral blood volume (rCBV), rCBV in small vessels, microvascular density, and relative vessel size. Six rats underwent SSCE MRI before MCAO and at 7, 14, 21 and 28 days after surgery. 5-Bromo-2′deoxyuridine (BrdU) was injected between days 2 and 7 to label proliferating cells during this time. SSCE MRI depicted a decrease in microvessel density and an increase in vessel size in the ischemic striatum after stroke. A persistently decreased MRI vessel density was confirmed with histology at 28 days. BrdU + endothelial cells were found in regions close to the infarct indicating endothelial cell proliferation during the first week after MCAO; however, late-stage angiogenesis, as would be reflected by increased vessel density, was not detected. The optimized SSCE MRI protocol was used to follow spatio-temporal changes of important vessel characteristics, which may contribute to a better understanding of the role of angiogenesis at different stages after stroke. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.