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Rapid disruption of the cortical microcirculation after mild traumatic brain injury

By Ellen D Witkowski, Sefik Evren Erdener, Kıvılcım Kılıç, Sreekanth Kura, Jianbo Tang, Dmitry D Postnov, Esther Lee, Sunnie Kong, David A. Boas, Ian G Davison

Posted 04 Oct 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/788455

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a major source of cognitive deficits affecting millions annually. The bulk of human injuries are mild, causing little or no macroscopic damage to neural tissue, yet can still lead to long-term neuropathology manifesting months or years later. Although the cellular stressors that ultimately lead to chronic pathology are poorly defined, one notable candidate is metabolic stress due to reduced cerebral blood flow (CBF), which is common to many forms of TBI. Here we used high-resolution in vivo intracranial imaging in a rodent injury model to characterize deficits in the cortical microcirculation during both acute and chronic phases after mild TBI. We found that CBF dropped precipitously during immediate post-injury periods, decreasing to less than half of baseline levels within minutes and remaining suppressed for 1.5-2 hours. Repeated time-lapse imaging of the cortical microvasculature revealed further striking flow deficits in the capillary network, where 18% of vessels were completely occluded for extended periods after injury, and an additional >50% showed substantial stoppages. Decreased CBF was paralleled by extensive vasoconstriction that is likely to contribute to loss of flow. Our data indicate a major role for vascular dysfunction in even mild forms of TBI, and suggest that acute post-injury periods may be key therapeutic windows for interventions that restore flow and mitigate metabolic stress.

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