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Age-dependent characterization of the carotid and cerebral artery morphologies in a transgenic mouse model of sickle cell anemia using ultrasound and microcomputed tomography

Christian Rivera, Li Li, Shuangyi Cai, Nui Pei, Geaorge McAlear, Keval Bollavaram, Oluwasanmi Aryio, Victor Omojola, Hannah SOng, Wenchang Tan, Yunlong Huo, Manu Platt
Children with sickle cell anemia have elevated stroke risks as well as other arterial complications, but morphological changes to large arteries are not well defined, and the focus has been on the microcirculation where deoxygenation promotes sickling of red blood cells. The goal of this study was to define morphological changes in carotid and cerebral arteries in the Townes transgenic sickle cell mouse model, and to specifically determine anatomical measurement differences in mice homozygous for β-globin S mutation (SS) compared to heterozygous (AS) littermate controls. We used a combination of live imaging with ultrasound and microcomputed tomography (micro-CT) imaging of corrosion casted vessels to quantify arterial dimensions and changes in mice 4, 12, and 24 weeks of age with or without sickle cell anemia. 12 week SS mice had significantly larger common carotid artery diameters than AS mice, and significantly larger diameters in the extracranial and intracranial portions of the internal carotid artery (ICA), determined by ultrasound and micro-CT, respectively. There were also side specific differences between the left and right vessels. There was significant narrowing along ICA length in 12- and 24-week SS mice, decreasing by as much as 70%, such that there was no difference in size between the anterior and middle cerebral arteries, where the ICA terminates, by genotype. Significant narrowing along the length was also measured in the anterior cerebral arteries of 12- and 24-week SS mice, but not AS. Collectively, these findings indicate that sickle cell anemia causes increased arterial dimensions in 12- and 24-week aged mice. We also provide these measurements for the common carotid, internal carotid, anterior cerebral, and middle cerebral arteries for left and right sides, for AS and SS genotypes as a reference for other investigators using in silico modeling of arterial complications caused by aging with sickle cell anemia.

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