Diffusion tensor imaging identifies presymptomatic axonal degeneration in the spinal cord of ALS mice.Brain Res. 2018 01 15; 1679:45-52.BR
Extensive pathological evidence indicates that axonal degeneration represents an early and critical event in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Unfortunately, few MRI studies have focused in the early detection of white matter (WM) alterations in the spinal cord region. To unveil these WM changes, we performed high resolution diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and correlated the results with histological analysis of adjacent slices taken from the spinal cords of presymptomatic mice. The DTI studies demonstrated a significant reduction in fractional anisotropy (FA) as well as axial diffusivities (AD) and an increase in radial diffusivity (RD), predominantly at lower segments of the spinal cord. Increases in FA and a reduction in AD and RD were observed in spinal cord (SC) gray matter (GM). Diffusion changes are associated with early and progressive alterations in axonal connectivity following a distal to proximal progression. Histological data tagging neuronal, axonal and glial cell markers demonstrated presymptomatic alterations in spinal cord WM and GM. This study demonstrates that DTI methods are optimal preclinical imaging tools to detect structural anomalies in WM and GM spinal cord during early stages of the disease.