Objective: The goal of this work is to study the changes in white matter integrity in R6/2, a well-established animal model of Huntington's disease (HD) that are captured by ex vivo diffusion imaging (DTI) using a high field MRI (17.6 T).
Materials and methods: DTI and continuous time random walk (CTRW) models were used to fit changes in the diffusion-weighted signal intensity in the corpus callosum of controls and in R6/2 mice.
Results: A significant 13% decrease in fractional anisotropy, a 7% increase in axial diffusion, and a 33% increase in radial diffusion were observed between R6/2 and control mice. No change was observed in the CTRW beta parameter, but a significant decrease in the alpha parameter (- 21%) was measured. Histological analysis of the corpus callosum showed a decrease in axonal organization, myelin alterations, and astrogliosis. Electron microscopy studies demonstrated ultrastructural changes in degenerating axons, such as an increase in tortuosity in the R6/2 mice.
Conclusions: DTI and CTRW diffusion models display quantitative changes associated with the microstructural alterations observed in the corpus callosum of the R6/2 mice. The observed increase in the diffusivity and decrease in the alpha CTRW parameter providing support for the use of these diffusion models for non-invasive detection of white matter alterations in HD.
Keywords: Anomalous diffusion; Diffusion tensor imaging; Huntington disease; Magnetic resonance imaging; Mice.