STUDY DESIGN.: Basic imaging experiment. OBJECTIVE.: To determine whether in vivo diffusion tensor tractography (DTT) can be used to evaluate the axonal disruption of the chronically compressed spinal cord in tiptoe walking Yoshimura (twy) mice. SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA.: In cervical ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament, axonal disruption results in motor and sensory functional impairment. Twy mice develop spontaneous calcification in the cervical ligaments, which causes chronic compression of the spinal cord. DTT is emerging as a powerful tool for tracing axonal fibers in vivo. METHODS.: Five twy mice were subjected to DTT at 6, 15, and 20 weeks of age. Magnetic resonance imaging was performed using a 7.0-Tesla magnet (Biospec 70/16; Billerica, MA) with a CryoProbe. Diffusion tensor images were analyzed using TrackVis (Massachusetts General Hospital, MA). Motor performance was evaluated by Rotarod treadmill test and Digigait analysis. Histological analysis was performed by hematoxylin-eosin staining and immunostaining for RT-97 and SMI-31. RESULTS.: High resolution DTT of twy mice in vivo was successful. A lower number of RT-97- or SMI-31-positive fibers were associated with more severe spinal cord compression, which was determined by observing the ligamentous calcification at the C2-C3 level in each twy mouse. The severity of canal stenosis based on magnetic resonance images was strongly correlated with the axial area of the spinal cord. The tract fiber (TF) ratio (the number of TFs at the C2-C3 level/the number of TFs at the C0-C1 level) was strongly correlated with the RT-97/SMI-31-positive area and with motor function (rotarod latency, stride length). Furthermore, a two-part linear regression analysis showed that canal stenosis around 50% to 60% caused a sharp decrease in the TF ratio before the deterioration of motor function. CONCLUSION.: We conclude that DTT could be useful for detecting the early changes associated with the compressed spinal cord in cervical ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament.
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