Background: The neurovasculature dynamically responds to changes in cerebral blood flow by vascular remodeling processes. Serial imaging studies in mouse models could help characterize pathologic and physiologic flow-induced remodeling of the Circle of Willis (CoW).
Method: We induced flow-driven pathologic cerebral vascular remodeling in the CoW of mice (n=3) by ligation of the left Common Carotid Artery (CCA), and the right external carotid and pterygopalatine arteries, increasing blood flow through the basilar and the right internal carotid arteries. One additional mouse was used as a wild-type control. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) at 9.4 Tesla (T) was used to serially image the mouse CoW over three months, and to obtain threedimensional images for use in Computational Fluid Dynamic (CFD) simulations. Terminal vascular corrosion casting and scanning electron microscope imaging were used to identify regions of macroscopic and microscopic arterial damage.
Results: We demonstrated the feasibility of detecting and serially measuring pathologic cerebral vascular changes in the mouse CoW, specifically in the anterior vasculature. These changes were characterized by bulging and increased vessel tortuosity on the anterior cerebral artery and aneurysm- like remodeling at the right olfactory artery origin. The resolution of the 9.4T system further allowed us to perform CFD simulations in the anterior CoW, which showed a correlation between elevated wall shear stress and pathological vascular changes.
Conclusion: In the future, serial high-resolution MRI could be useful for characterizing the flow environments corresponding to other pathologic remodeling processes in the mouse CoW, such as aneurysm formation, subarachnoid hemorrhage, and ischemia.