OCT method measures cerebral blood flow, shows effects of cocaine abuse

Stony Brook University School of Medicine (Stony Brook, NY) scientists used an optical coherence tomography (OCT) method they developed to measure how cocaine disrupts blood flow in the brains of mice, thereby showing how drug abuse affects the brain. What's more, the quantitative imaging method can also be applied to other disease diagnoses and treatments as well, including cancer.

Related: Imaging distributed function and networks in the human brain
 
The method, ultrahigh-resolution optical coherence Doppler tomography, involves focusing a Ti:sapphire laser on a mouse brain cortex and then collecting and analyzing the reflected light. In a study, it enabled them to show neurovascular toxicity elicited by cocaine, explains Yingtian Pan, Ph.D., a professor in the university's Department of Biomedical Engineering, who led the work. "We can visualize, in animal models, the micro and regional ischemic effects [deficiency of blood flow] to the cerebral microvascular networks," he adds.

Professor Yingtian Pan (right), his student Jiang You (left), and lab associate Ki Park (center) developed a quantitative imaging technique that shows how cocaine disrupts brain blood flow. The method may also be used to assess diseases, as it can image slow capillary flow rates and distribution
Professor Yingtian Pan (right), his student Jiang You (left), and lab associate Ki Park (center) developed a quantitative imaging technique that shows how cocaine disrupts brain blood flow. The method may also be used to assess diseases, as it can image slow capillary flow rates and distribution.

What's critical is the ability to measure both cerebral blood flow speeds inside tiny blood vessels and the larger network effects. "We show that quantitative flow imaging can provide a lot of useful physiological and functional information that we haven't had access to before," Pan says.
 
The new platform can aid with disease prognosis and monitoring treatment effects. It can also be applied to other diseases involving vascular impairment and healing; to other drug and even alcohol abuse; and in wound repair, especially the formation of blood vessels in tumor tissue.
 
The cancer "microenvironment" is a promising area. "This technique, unlike previously reported methods that imaged tumor vasculature [the blood vessels, or arrangement of blood vessels, in an organ or part], allows you to image slow capillary flow rates and distribution," Pan says. "This is more relevant to tissue/cancer physiology and function due to the fact that flow, rather than vasculature, is directly linked to blood supply and oxygen delivery."

Pan's team is now developing ways to improve the new technique to allow for imaging of transient effects in the neurovascular network.

Full details of the team's work appear in the journal Biomedical Optics Express; for more information, please visit http://dx.doi.org/10.1364/BOE.5.003217. The work has also been highlighted in Neuroscience News.

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