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Open Access Highly Accessed Review

Quantitative imaging assessment of blood-brain barrier permeability in humans

Yoash Chassidim12*, Ronel Veksler12, Svetlana Lublinsky12, Gaby S Pell34, Alon Friedman1 and Ilan Shelef2

Author Affiliations

1 Departments of Physiology and Cell Biology & Biomedical Engineering, Faculty of Health Sciences, Zlotowski Center for Neuroscience, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel

2 Department of Radiology, Soroka University Medical Center and Zlotowski Center for Neuroscience, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel

3 Department of Life Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel

4 Brainsway Ltd, Jerusalem, Israel

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Fluids and Barriers of the CNS 2013, 10:9  doi:10.1186/2045-8118-10-9

Published: 7 February 2013

Abstract

The blood–brain barrier (BBB) is a functional and structural barrier separating the intravascular and neuropil compartments of the brain. It characterizes the vascular bed and is essential for normal brain functions. Dysfunction in the BBB properties have been described in most common neurological disorders, such as stroke, traumatic injuries, intracerebral hemorrhage, tumors, epilepsy and neurodegenerative disorders. It is now obvious that the BBB plays an important role in normal brain activity, stressing the need for applicable imaging and assessment methods. Recent advancements in imaging techniques now make it possible to establish sensitive and quantitative methods for the assessment of BBB permeability. However, most of the existing techniques require complicated and demanding dynamic scanning protocols that are impractical and cannot be fulfilled in some cases. We review existing methods for the evaluation of BBB permeability, focusing on quantitative magnetic resonance-based approaches and discuss their drawbacks and limitations. In light of those limitations we propose two new approaches for BBB assessment with less demanding imaging sequences: the “post-pre” and the “linear dynamic” methods, both allow semi-quantitative permeability assessment and localization of dysfunctional BBB with simple/partial dynamic imaging protocols and easy-to-apply analysis algorithms. We present preliminary results and show an example which compares these new methods with the existing standard assessment method. We strongly believe that the establishment of such “easy to use” and reliable imaging methods is essential before BBB assessment can become a routine clinical tool. Large clinical trials are awaited to fully understand the significance of BBB permeability as a biomarker and target for treatment in neurological disorders.

Keywords:
Blood–brain barrier; Magnetic resonance imaging; Permeability; Brain insult