Background: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has many advantages in the research of in vivo embryonic brain development, specifically its noninvasive aspects and ability to avoid skeletal interference. However, few studies have focused on brain development in chick, which is a traditional animal model in developmental biology. We aimed to serially monitor chick embryo brain development in vivo using 3.0 T MRI.
Methods: Ten fertile Hy-line white eggs were incubated and seven chick embryo brains were monitored in vivo and analyzed serially from 5 to 20 days during incubation using 3.0 T MRI. A fast positioning sequence was pre-scanned to obtain sagittal and coronal brain planes corresponding to the established atlas. T2-weighted imaging (T2WI) was performed for volume estimation of the whole brain and subdivision (telencephalon, cerebellum, brainstem, and lateral ventricle [LV]); diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) was used to reflect the evolution of neural bundle structures.
Results: The chick embryos' whole brain and subdivision grew non-linearly over time; the DTI fractional anisotropy (FA) value within the telencephalon increased non-linearly as well. All seven scanned eggs hatched successfully.
Conclusions: MRI avoids embryonic sacrifice in a way that allows serial monitoring of longitudinal developmental processes of a single embryo. Feasibility for analyzing subdivision of the brain during development, and adding structural information related to neural bundles, makes MRI a powerful tool for exploring brain development.