A key event in the pathophysiology of traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the influx of substantial amounts of Ca2+ into neurons, particularly in the thalamus. Detection of this calcium influx in vivo would provide a window into the biochemical mechanisms of TBI with potentially significant clinical implications. In the present work, our central hypothesis was that the Ca2+ influx could be imaged in vivo with the relatively recent MRI technique of quantitative susceptibility mapping (QSM). Wistar rats were divided into five groups: naive controls, sham-operated experimental controls, single mild TBI, repeated mild TBI, and single severe TBI. We employed the lateral fluid percussion injury (FPI) model, which replicates clinical TBI without skull fracture, performed 9.4 Tesla MRI with a 3D multi-echo gradient-echo sequence at weeks 1 and 4 post-injury, computed susceptibility maps using V-SHARP and the QUASAR-HEIDI technique, and performed histology. Sham, experimental controls animals, and injured animals did not demonstrate calcifications at 1 week after the injury. At week 4, calcifications were found in the ipsilateral thalamus of 25-50% of animals after a single TBI and 83% of animals after repeated mild TBI. The location and appearance of calcifications on stained sections was consistent with the appearance on the in vivo susceptibility maps (correlation of volumes: r = 0.7). Our findings suggest that persistent calcium deposits represent a primary pathology of repeated injury and that FPI-QSM has the potential to become a sensitive tool for studying pathophysiology related to mild TBI in vivo.
Keywords: Biomarker; Calcium; Fluid percussion injury; MRI; QSM; Quantitative susceptibility mapping; Rats; Repeated mild traumatic brain injury.
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