Comparative assessments of the effects of alcohol exposure on fetal brain development using optical coherence tomography and ultrasound imaging.
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The developing fetal brain is vulnerable to a variety of environmental agents including maternal ethanol consumption. Preclinical studies on the development and amelioration of fetal teratology would be significantly facilitated by the application of high resolution imaging technologies like optical coherence tomography (OCT) and high-frequency ultrasound (US). This study investigates the ability of these imaging technologies to measure the effects of maternal ethanol exposure on brain development, ex vivo, in fetal mice. Pregnant mice at gestational day 12.5 were administered ethanol (3 g/Kg b.wt.) or water by intragastric gavage, twice daily for three consecutive days. On gestational day 14.5, fetuses were collected and imaged. Three-dimensional images of the mice fetus brains were obtained by OCT and high-resolution US, and the volumes of the left and right ventricles of the brain were measured. Ethanol-exposed fetuses exhibited a statistically significant, 2-fold increase in average left and right ventricular volumes compared with the ventricular volume of control fetuses, with OCT-derived measures of 0.38 and 0.18 mm3, respectively, whereas the boundaries of the fetal mouse lateral ventricles were not clearly definable with US imaging. Our results indicate that OCT is a useful technology for assessing ventriculomegaly accompanying alcohol-induced developmental delay. This study clearly demonstrated advantages of using OCT for quantitative assessment of embryonic development compared with US imaging.