Evaluating changes in murine fetal brain vasculature due to maternal nicotine exposure using in utero optical coherence tomography



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Nicotine is a commonly used substance of abuse during pregnancy. Previous research has shown that prenatal nicotine exposure (PNE) is harmful to a fetus. PNE is known to cause intrauterine and postnatal growth restriction, decrease in head circumference and biparietal diameter, and perinatal mortality and morbidity. Evidence of negative influences of nicotine on brain development has been seen in humans too. It is unknown whether the relationship between maternal smoking and behavior problems is due to physical brain deficits caused by nicotine. In this study, we use optical coherence tomography (OCT), a noninvasive optical imaging modality with high spatial and temporal resolution to image the changes in fetal brain vasculature caused due to maternal nicotine exposure. We use a functional extension of OCT called correlation mapping optical coherence angiography (cm-OCA) to image microvasculature in the fetal brain, in utero. Pregnant mice at 14.5 days post coitum were anesthetized and placed on a heated surgical platform. Abdominal fur was removed, and a small incision was made to expose the uterine horn for imaging. After initial cm-OCA measurements, the mother was administered nicotine via intragastric gavage, at a dose of 1mg/kg. Subsequent measurements were taken for a period of 45 minutes at 5-minute intervals. A drastic decrease in parameters quantifying vasculature was seen within 45 minutes of maternal nicotine exposure during the second trimester equivalent period. This project was completed with contributions from Rajesh C. Miranda from Texas A & M University College of Medicine.