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Biotechnology - Radiology and Medical Imaging

In Vivo Imaging of Macrophages during the Early-Stages of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Using High Resolution MRI in ApoE-/- Mice
Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Author: Yuyu Yao et al.

by Yuyu Yao, Yuanyuan Wang, Yi Zhang, Yefei Li, Zulong Sheng, Song Wen, Genshan Ma, Naifeng Liu, Fang Fang, Gao-Jun Teng


Angiotensin II (ANG II) promotes vascular inflammation and induces abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) in hyperlipidemic apolipoprotein E knock-out (apoE-/-) mice. The aim of the present study was to detect macrophage activities in an ANG II-induced early-stage AAA model using superparamagnetic iron oxide (SPIO) as a marker.

Methodology/Principal Findings

Twenty-six male apoE-/- mice received saline or ANG II (1000 or 500 ng/kg/min) infusion for 14 days. All animals underwent MRI scanning following administration of SPIO with the exception of three mice in the 1000 ng ANG II group, which were scanned without SPIO administration. MR imaging was performed using black-blood T2 to proton density -weighted multi-spin multi-echo sequence. In vivo MRI measurement of SPIO uptake and abdominal aortic diameter were obtained. Prussian blue, CD68,a-SMC and MAC3 immunohistological stains were used for the detection of SPIO, macrophages and smooth muscle cells. ANG II infusion with 1000 ng/kg/min induced AAA in all of the apoE-/- mice. ANG II infusion exhibited significantly higher degrees of SPIO uptake, which was detected using MRI as a distinct loss of signal intensity. The contrast-to-noise ratio value decreased in proportion to an increase in the number of iron-laden macrophages in the aneurysm. The aneurysmal vessel wall in both groups of ANG II treated mice contained more iron-positive macrophages than saline-treated mice. However, the presence of cells capable of phagocytosing haemosiderin in mural thrombi also induced low-signal-intensities via MRI imaging.


SPIO is taken up by macrophages in the shoulder and the outer layer of AAA. This alters the MRI signaling properties and can be used in imaging inflammation associated with AAA. It is important to compare images of the aorta before and after SPIO injection.