Microstructural imaging in the spinal cord and validation strategies.
In vivo histology using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a newly emerging research field that aims to non-invasively characterize tissue microstructure. The implications of in vivo histology are many, from discovering novel biomarkers to studying human development, to providing tools for disease diagnosis and monitoring the effects of novel treatments on tissue. This review focuses on quantitative MRI (qMRI) techniques that are used to map spinal cord microstructure. Opening with a rationale for non-invasive imaging of the spinal cord, this article continues with a brief overview of the existing MRI techniques for axon and myelin imaging, followed by the specific challenges and potential solutions for acquiring and processing such data. The final part of this review focuses on histological validation, with suggested tissue preparation, acquisition and processing protocols for large-scale microscopy.