Authors: Augustine Meombe Mbolle, Hao Yang, Huabei Jiang*
Alcohol-induced structural and functional changes were studied in vivo by photoacoustic tomography (PAT) of the cerebrovascular system in selectively bred alcohol-preferring mice. High (HAP) and low (LAP) alcohol-preferring mice are replicate lines of mice selectively bred to prefer 10% (v/v) ethanol to water and water to ethanol, respectively, in a free-access two-bottle choice scenario. A cohort of 15 singly-housed alcohol-preferring mice (five HAP mice for the experimental group, five LAP mice for the control group, and five other LAP mice set aside) were given free-access two-bottle choice 10% ethanol (v/v) and water in 50-mL graduated drinking bottles mounted on each of their cages for 4 weeks prior to PAT brain scanning. A daily log of the volume of ethanol consumed over a 24-h period was kept. At the end of the fourth week, blood samples were collected from the HAP mice and blood ethanol concentrations (BECs) were measured to ascertain their levels of ethanol intoxication. The mice were then grouped into five weight-matched pairs of HAP and LAP for comparison purposes, and noninvasive in vivo PAT imaging was performed on each weight-matched pair. To mimic a binge drinking paradigm, mice were rearranged into four weight-matched groups of three animals each: an HAP mouse and two LAP mice. For each group, one HAP mouse and one LAP mouse received a 20% ethanol solution via intraperitoneal (i.p.) injection after 24 h of ethanol abstinence, in weight-based doses of 3 g/kg prior to imaging, while the last LAP mouse received a sham i.p. injection. PAT images of the brain were collected for 30 min thereafter. Cerebral vascular diameters for selected vessels of interest were extracted from the PAT images and compared between HAP mice and LAP mice. For the binge scenario, changes in vessel diameter and hemoglobin oxygen saturation were extracted from PAT images and studied over a 30-min duration. Vascular diameter was significantly smaller in HAP mice compared to LAP mice in weight-matched pairs. Hemoglobin-oxygen saturation and vessel diameter dropped more quickly in LAP mice than in HAP mice following a 20% ethanol i.p. injection (3 g/kg), with a 32% reduction in cerebrovascular diameter in a 30-min period. This study demonstrates the effectiveness of PAT in alcohol addiction imaging and diagnosis, and its feasibility in studying alcohol-induced changes in vascular structure and perfusion. It also adds to other bodies of evidence to suggest that the effects of binge drinking are more adverse in occasional drinkers than habitual drinkers.