Recent studies suggested that cerebrovascular micro-occlusions , i.e. microstokes, could lead to ischemic tissue infarctions and cognitive deficits. Due to their small size, identifying measurable biomarkers of these microvascular lesions remains a major challenge. This work aims to simulate potential MRI signatures combining arterial spin labeling (ASL) and multi-directional diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI). Driving our hypothesis are recent observations demonstrating a radial reorientation of microvasculature around the micro-infarction locus during recovery in mice. Synthetic capillary beds, randomly- and radially- oriented, and optical coherence tomography (OCT) angiograms, acquired in the barrel cortex of mice (n=5) before and after inducing targeted photothrombosis, were analyzed. Computational vascular graphs combined with a 3D Monte-Carlo simulator were used to characterize the magnetic resonance (MR) response, encompassing the effects of magnetic field perturbations caused by deoxyhemoglobin, and the advection and diffusion of the nuclear spins. We quantified the minimal intravoxel signal loss ratio when applying multiple gradient directions, at varying sequence parameters with and without ASL. With ASL, our results demonstrate a significant difference (p<0.05) between the signal-ratios computed at baseline and 3 weeks after photothrombosis. The statistical power further increased (p<0.005) using angiograms measured at week 4. Without ASL, no reliable signal change was found. We found that higher ratios, and accordingly improved significance, were achieved at lower magnetic field strengths (e.g., B0=3) and shorter readout TE (<16 ms). Our simulations suggest that microstrokes might be characterized through ASL-DWI sequence, providing necessary insights for posterior experimental validations, and ultimately, future translational trials.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience