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Evaluation of neuregulin-1's neuroprotection against ischemic injury in rats using diffusion tensor imaging


Stroke is a devastating neurovascular disorder that results in damage to neurons and white matter tracts. It has been previously demonstrated that neuregulin-1 (NRG-1) protects neurons from ischemic injury following stroke. Here, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) was utilized to characterize the effects of NRG-1 treatment on cererbral infarction and integrity of white matter after ischemic insult using a permanent middle celebral artery occlusion (pMCAo) rat model. In the present study, sixteen Sprague-Dawley rats underwent pMCAo surgery and received either a single intra-arterial bolus (20 μg/kg) dose of NRG-1 or saline immediately prior to pMCAo. MRI including T2-weighted imaging and DTI was performed in the first 3 h post stroke, and repeated 48 h later. It is found that the stroke infarction was significantly reduced in the NRG-1 treated group. Also, NRG-1 prevented the reduction of fractional anisotropy (FA) in white matter tracts of fornix and corpus callosum (CC), indicating its protection of CC and fornix white matter bundles from ischemia insult. As a conclusion, the present DTI results demonstrate that NRG-1 has significantly neuroprotective effects in both cerebral cortex and white matter including corpus callosum and fornix during acute stroke. In particular, NRG-1 is more effective on stroke lesion with mild ischemia. As CC and fornix white matter bundles play critical roles in transcallosal connectivity and hippocampal projections respectively in the central nervous system, the findings could provide complementary information for better understanding the biological mechanism of NRG-1's neuroprotection in ischemic tissues and neurobehavioral effects.

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