A high-resolution, three-dimensional, optical imaging technique for the murine brain was developed to identify the effects of different therapeutic windows for preclinical brain research. This technique tracks the same cells over several weeks. We conducted a pilot study of a promising drug to treat diffuse axonal injury (DAI) caused by traumatic brain injury, using two different therapeutic windows, as a means to demonstrate the utility of this novel longitudinal imaging technique. DAI causes immediate, sporadic axon damage followed by progressive secondary axon damage. We administered minocycline for three days commencing one hour after injury in one treatment group and beginning 72 hours after injury in another group to demonstrate the method’s ability to show how and when the therapeutic drug exerts protective and/or healing effects. Fewer varicosities developed in acutely treated mice while more varicosities resolved in mice with delayed treatment. For both treatments, the drug arrested development of new axonal damage by 30 days. In addition to evaluation of therapeutics for traumatic brain injury, this hybrid microlens imaging method should be useful to study other types of brain injury and neurodegeneration and cellular responses to treatment.
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