In vivo characterization of a new abdominal aortic aneurysm mouse model with conventional and molecular magnetic resonance imaging
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Objectives: The goal of this study was to use noninvasive conventional and molecular magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to detect and characterize abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs) in vivo. Background: Collagen is an essential constituent of aneurysms. Noninvasive MRI of collagen may represent an opportunity to help detect and better characterize AAAs and initiate intervention. Methods: We used an AAA C57BL/6 mouse model in which a combination of angiotensin II infusion and transforming growth factor–ß neutralization results in AAA formation with incidence of aortic rupture. High-resolution, multisequence MRI was performed to characterize the temporal progression of an AAA. To allow molecular MRI of collagen, paramagnetic/fluorescent micellar nanoparticles functionalized with a collagen-binding protein (CNA-35) were intravenously administered. In vivo imaging results were corroborated with immunohistochemistry and confocal fluorescence microscopy. Results: High-resolution, multisequence MRI allowed the visualization of the primary fibrotic response in the aortic wall. As the aneurysm progressed, the formation of a secondary channel or dissection was detected. Further analysis revealed a dramatic increase of the aortic diameter. Injection of CNA-35 micelles resulted in a significantly higher magnetic resonance signal enhancement in the aneurysmal wall compared with nonspecific micelles. Histological studies revealed the presence of collagen in regions of magnetic resonance signal enhancement, and confocal microscopy proved the precise co-localization of CNA-35 micelles with type I collagen. In addition, in a proof-of-concept experiment, we reported the potential of CNA-35 micelles to discriminate between stable AAA lesions and aneurysms that were likely to rapidly progress or rupture. Conclusions: High-resolution, multisequence MRI allowed longitudinal monitoring of AAA progression while the presence of collagen was visualized by nanoparticle-enhanced MRI.