Cerebral small vessel disease(s) (SVD) results from pathological changes of the small blood vessels in the brain and is common in older people. The diagnostic features by which SVD manifests in brain includes white matter hyperintensities, lacunes, dilated perivascular spaces, microbleeds, and atrophy. In the present study, we use in vivo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to characterize brain morphometry and longitudinal relaxation time (T1) of spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHRs) to study the contribution of chronic hypertension to SVD relevant pathology. Male SHR and Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) rats underwent 3D variable flip angle spoiled gradient echo brain MRI at 9.4 T at early (seven weeks old) and established (19 weeks old) stages of hypertension. The derived proton density weighted and T1 images were utilized for morphometry and to characterize T1 properties in gray matter (GM), white matter (WM) and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Custom tissue probability maps were constructed for accurate computerized whole brain tissue segmentations and voxel-wise analyses. Characteristic morphological differences between the two strains included enlarged ventricles, smaller corpus callosum (CC) volumes and general 'thinning' of CC in SHR compared to WKY rats at both age groups. While we did not observe parenchymal T1 differences, the T1 of CSF was elevated in SHR compared to controls. Collectively these findings indicate that SHRs develop WM atrophy which is a clinically robust MRI biomarker associated with WM degeneration.
Keywords: DBM; MRI; SHR; T1; VBM; WKY.
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