Background - The pathogenesis of atherosclerosis is currently being investigated in genetically engineered small animals. Methods to follow the time course of the developing pathology and/or the responses to therapy in vivo are limited. Methods and Results - To address this problem, we developed a noninvasive MR microscopy technique to study in vivo atherosclerotic lesions (without a priori knowledge of the lesion location or lesion type) in live apolipoprotein E-knockout (apoE-KO) mice. The spatial resolution was 0.0012 to 0.005 mm3. The lumen and wall of the abdominal aorta and iliac arteries were identified on all images in apoE-KO (n=8)and wild-type (n=5) mice on chow diet. Images obtained with MR were compared with corresponding cross-sectional histopathology (n=58). MR accurately determined wall area in comparison to histopathology (slope=1.0, r=0.86). In addition, atherosclerotic lesions were characterized in terms of lesion shape and type. Lesion type was graded by MR according to morphological appearance/severity and by histopathology according to the AHA classification. There was excellent agreement between MR and histopathology in grading of lesion shape and type (slope=0.97, r=0.91 for lesion shape; slope=0.64, r=0.90 for lesion type). Conclusions The combination of high-resolution MR microscopy and genetically engineered animals is a powerful tool to investigate serially and noninvasively the progression and regression of atherosclerotic lesions in an intact animal model and should greatly enhance basic studies of atherosclerotic disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1541-1547
Number of pages7
Issue number15
StatePublished - 13 Oct 1998


  • Atherosclerosis
  • Genes
  • Magnetic resonance imaging


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