Can we use a magnet to see brain inflammation?
The brain's immune system helps us defend ourselves against pathogens and attacks, but what happens when it doesn't or it overreacts? Could it be dangerous? More importantly - Is there a way to detect it on time? Here we have developed a potential diagnostic tool for noninvasive detection of brain inflammation, which we believe could be critical for the diagnosis and monitoring of brain diseases.
However, what happens when this harmony is disturbed? What happens when the equilibrium is lost by an external attack or the “wear and tear” of parts? A viable system requires that balance be restored in some way. For instance, when the brain is exposed to external pathogens and/or toxins (e.g. drugs), the immune system reacts in an attempt to repel the attack and restore the equilibrium. Even the mere passing of time, e.g., non-pathological ageing, causes a sustained, low-grade activation of the immune system, termed “inflamm-ageing”.
An overreaction can be quite dangerous, with outcomes such as reduced blood and oxygen flow, ischemia, and cell death. Therefore, uncontrolled neuroinflammation has functional consequences and has been linked to the progression and development of various neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and multiple sclerosis. The ability to detect early inflammatory states may offer us a source of important biomarkers for diagnosis and treatment response in neurological and psychiatric diseases. But how can we measure the tone of the neuroimmune system in vivo? The change in morphology of glial cells when confronted with a challenge can serve as a basis.
As the name suggests, diffusion magnetic resonance imaging uses the magnetic properties of water to measure how water molecules move within the brain tissue. In this work we combine this radiological technique with advanced mathematical modeling of how water navigates soft tissues to measure relevant parameters of different cell types. Our hypothesis was that by looking at water diffusing within different glial cells in different reactive conditions, we could infer their morphological changes and identify different inflammatory states.
Aleksa Djorovic , Senior Scientific Editor
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