Age-related blood-brain barrier (BBB) disruption and cerebromicrovascular rarefaction contribute importantly to the pathogenesis of both vascular cognitive impairment and dementia (VCID) and Alzheimer's disease (AD). Recent advances in geroscience research enable development of novel interventions to reverse age-related alterations of the cerebral microcirculation for prevention of VCID and AD. To facilitate this research, there is an urgent need for sensitive and easy-to-adapt imaging methods that enable longitudinal assessment of changes in BBB permeability and brain capillarization in aged mice and that could be used in vivo to evaluate treatment efficiency. To enable longitudinal assessment of changes in BBB permeability in aged mice equipped with a chronic cranial window, we adapted and optimized two different intravital two-photon imaging approaches. By assessing relative fluorescence changes over the baseline within a volume of brain tissue, after qualitative image subtraction of the brain microvasculature, we confirmed that, in 24-mo-old C57BL/6J mice, cumulative permeability of the microvessels to fluorescent tracers of different molecular masses (0.3 to 40 kDa) is significantly increased compared with that of 5-mo-old mice. Real-time recording of vessel cross-sections showed that apparent solute permeability of single microvessels is significantly increased in aged mice vs. young mice. Cortical capillary density, assessed both by intravital two-photon microscopy and optical coherence tomography was also decreased in aged mice vs. young mice. The presented methods have been optimized for longitudinal (over the period of 36 wk) in vivo assessment of cerebromicrovascular health in preclinical geroscience research.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Methods are presented for longitudinal detection of age-related increase in blood-brain barrier permeability and microvascular rarefaction in the mouse cerebral cortex by intravital two-photon microscopy and optical coherence tomography.
Keywords: aging; blood-brain barrier; capillary density; intravital microscopy; microcirculation; multiphoton microscopy.