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Vasculature changes in the fetal brain due to prenatal alcohol exposure

8 Mar | By Biophotonics.World
Vasculature changes in the fetal brain due to prenatal alcohol exposure
Figure 1 Maximum intensity projections (MIP) of a 3D SVOCT image of the murine fetal brain (a) before and (b) 45 minutes after administering ethanol. 2D cross-section with the microvasculature overlaid in red (c) before and (d) 45 minutes after administering ethanol.
By: Kirill Larin

Researchers at the University of Houston have used optical coherence tomography (OCT), a noninvasive optical imaging modality, to image acute changes in fetal brain vasculature minutes after maternal ethanol exposure. The team published their results in the Journal of Biophotonics in 2018.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) refers to a broad spectrum of developmental and behavioral effects caused by prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE). The severity of the abnormality depends on the exposure dose and the gestation period during exposure. Although significant research has been performed to understand these abnormalities, the acute vasculature changes in the fetal brain minutes after PAE have not been reported. The researchers chose to target the second trimester-equivalent in the mice because it marks a critical period for fetal neurogenesis and angiogenesis. The microvasculature that forms in the brain during this period supports nutritional needs, provides endocrine control of fetal growth, and promotes neural development.

Although several imaging modalities are used to image small mammal embryos, OCT has emerged as a powerful technique because of its high spatial and temporal resolution, noninvasive depth-resolved imaging, superior contrast and sensitivity, and label-free imaging. The team pioneered the use of structural and functional in utero OCT imaging of mouse embryonic development. Speckle variance OCT (SVOCT), which is a subset of angiographic OCT, is a functional extension of OCT that can image moving particles in tissue, such as red blood cells. 

In their recently published work, the researchers utilized in utero SVOCT to image rapid changes in murine fetal brain vasculature caused by acute maternal exposure to a binge-like bolus of ethanol, similar to wine. Within 45 minutes of maternal alcohol exposure, there was a dramatic (~50%) decrease in the diameter of the fetal brain vasculature, demonstrating the magnitude of potential damage caused by a single prenatal alcohol exposure. 

They are currently investigating the effects of additional teratogens, such as a nicotine and exogenous cannabinoids, on the fetal brain vasculature.


Original article: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/jbio.201700238

Author: Kirill Larin


Methods and Techniques: Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT )

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