MR imaging of neuronal transport in the Guinea pig facial nerve: Initial findings

A. E. Petropoulos, B. K. Schaffer, M. L. Cheney, S. Enochs, C. Zimmer, R. Weissleder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Certain dextran coated iron oxides such as MION (monocrystalline iron oxide nanocompound) coupled to wheat germ agglutinin (MION-WGA) have been shown to exhibit i) neuronal uptake ii) axonal transport and iii) strong magnetic effects on tissues (superparamagnetism) in which they are localized. In the current study, we utilized such an agent to visualize axonal transport in the facial nerve in vivo by magnetic resonance (MR) imaging. Following injection of the compound into the facial nerves of guinea pigs, MR images were obtained at multiple time points (1, 3 and 5 days) and the imaged tissues were processed for subsequent histological examination. In nerves that had been injected with MION-WGA, the entire nerve appeared as a uniformly hypointense structure with a calculated transport rate of 5 mm/day. By 3 days, the agent within the facial nerve was traceable by MRI from a site of injection in the buccal branch to the stylomastoid foramen. Fluorescence and autoradiography studies confirmed axonal transport. These results show that MION-based magnetopharmaceuticals can be used to demonstrate slow axonal transport, and thereby visualize functional peripheral nerves in vivo by MR imaging. The method holds promise for developmental neuroscience research as well as a method to detect neural abnormalities by MR imaging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)512-516
Number of pages5
JournalActa Oto-Laryngologica
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • Axonal transport
  • Facial nerve
  • Iron oxide
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Nervous system
  • Wheat germ agglutinin


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