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Diffusion tensor imaging as a biomarker for assessing neuronal stem cell treatments affecting areas distal to the site of spinal cord injury. J Neurosurg Spine 2017 Feb;26(2):243-251



Pubmed ID




Scopus ID

2-s2.0-85013715236   8 Citations


OBJECTIVE The aims of this study were to determine if the morphological and functional changes induced by neural stem cell (NSC) grafts after transplantation into the rodent spinal cord can be detected using MR diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and, furthermore, if the DTI-derived mean diffusivity (MD) metric could be a biomarker for cell transplantation in spinal cord injury (SCI). METHODS A spinal contusion was produced at the T-8 vertebral level in 40 Sprague Dawley rats that were separated into 4 groups, including a sham group (injury without NSC injection), NSC control group (injury with saline injection), co-injection control group (injury with Prograf), and the experimental group (injury with NSC and Prograf injection). The NSC injection was completed 1 week after injury into the site of injury and the rats in the experimental group were compared to the rats from the sham, NSC control, and co-injection groups. The DTI index, MD, was assessed in vivo at 2, 5, and 10 weeks and ex vivo at 10 weeks postinjury on a 9.4-T Bruker scanner using a spin-echo imaging sequence. DTI data of the cervical spinal cord from the sham surgery, injury with saline injection, injury with injection of Prograf only, and injury with C17.2 NSC and Prograf injection were examined to evaluate if cellular proliferation induced by intrathoracic C17.2 engraftment was detectable in a noninvasive manner. RESULTS At 5 weeks after injury, the average fractional anisotropy, longitudinal diffusion (LD) and radial diffusion (RD) coefficients, and MD of water (average of the RD and LD eigenvalues in the stem cell line-treated group) increased to an average of 1.44 × 10-3 sec/mm2 in the cervical segments, while the control groups averaged 0.98 × 10-3 s/mm2. Post hoc Tukey's honest significant difference tests demonstrated that the transplanted stem cells had significantly higher MD values than the other groups (p = 0.032 at 5 weeks). In vivo and ex vivo findings at 10 weeks displayed similar results. This statistical difference between the stem cell line and the other groups was maintained at the 10-week postinjury in vivo and ex vivo time points. CONCLUSIONS These results indicate that the DTI-derived MD metric collected from noninvasive imaging techniques may provide useful biomarker indices for transplantation interventions that produce changes in the spinal cord structure and function. Though promising, the results demonstrated here suggest additional work is needed before implementation in a clinical setting.

Author List

Jirjis MB, Valdez C, Vedantam A, Schmit BD, Kurpad SN


Shekar N. Kurpad MD, PhD Chair, Professor in the Neurosurgery department at Medical College of Wisconsin
Brian Schmit PhD Professor in the Biomedical Engineering department at Marquette University

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

Cell Line
Cervical Cord
Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Diffusion Tensor Imaging
Disease Models, Animal
Hot Temperature
Motor Activity
Neural Stem Cells
Pain Perception
Random Allocation
Rats, Sprague-Dawley
Spinal Cord Injuries
Stem Cell Transplantation
Thoracic Vertebrae
Time Factors
Treatment Outcome