Development of acute hydrocephalus does not change brain tissue mechanical properties in adult rats, but in juvenile rats

Alice C. Pong, Lauriane Jugé, Lynne E. Bilston, Shaokoon Cheng

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Introduction: Regional changes in brain stiffness were previously demonstrated in an experimental obstructive hydrocephalus juvenile rat model. The open cranial sutures in the juvenile rats have influenced brain compression and mechanical properties during hydrocephalus development and the extent by which closed cranial sutures in adult hydrocephalic rat models affect brain stiffness in-vivo remains unclear. The aims of this study were to determine changes in brain tissue mechanical properties and brain structure size during hydrocephalus development in adult rat with fixed cranial volume and how these changes were related to brain tissue deformation. Methods: Hydrocephalus was induced in 9 female ten weeks old Sprague-Dawley rats by injecting 60 μL of a kaolin suspension (25%) into the cisterna magna under anaesthesia. 6 sham-injected age-matched female SD rats were used as controls. MR imaging (9.4T, Bruker) was performed 1 day before and then at 3 days post injection. T2-weighted anatomical MR images were collected to quantify ventricle and brain tissue cross-sectional areas. MR elastography (800 Hz) was used to measure the brain stiffness (G*, shear modulus). Results: Brain tissue in the adult hydrocephalic rats was more compressed than the juvenile hydrocephalic rats because the skulls of the adult hydrocephalic rats were unable to expand like the juvenile rats. In the adult hydrocephalic rats, the cortical gray matter thickness and the caudate-putamen cross-sectional area decreased (Spearman, P < 0.001 for both) but there were no significant changes in cranial cross-sectional area (Spearman, P = 0.35), cortical gray matter stiffness (Spearman, P = 0.24) and caudate-putamen (Spearman, P = 0.11) stiffness. No significant changes in the size of brain structures were observed in the controls. Conclusions: This study showed that although brain tissue in the adult hydrocephalic rats was severely compressed, their brain tissue stiffness did not change significantly. These results are in contrast with our previous findings in juvenile hydrocephalic rats which had significantly less brain compression (as the brain circumference was able to stretch with the cranium due to the open skull sutures) and had a significant increase in caudate putamen stiffness. These results suggest that change in brain mechanical properties in hydrocephalus is complex and is not solely dependent on brain tissue deformation. Further studies on the interactions between brain tissue stiffness, deformation, tissue oedema and neural damage are necessary before MRE can be used as a tool to track changes in brain biomechanics in hydrocephalus.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0182808
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 24 Aug 2017

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