The degenerative effects of multiple sclerosis at the level of the vascular and neuronal networks in the central nervous system are currently the object of intensive investigation. Preclinical studies have demonstrated the efficacy of mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) therapy in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), the animal model for multiple sclerosis, but the neuropathology of specific lesions in EAE and the effects of MSC treatment are under debate. Because conventional imaging techniques entail protocols that alter the tissues, limiting the reliability of the results, we have used non-invasive X-ray phase-contrast tomography to obtain an unprecedented direct 3D characterization of EAE lesions at micro-to-nano scales, with simultaneous imaging of the vascular and neuronal networks. We reveal EAE-mediated alterations down to the capillary network. Our findings shed light on how the disease and MSC treatment affect the tissues, and promote X-ray phase-contrast tomography as a powerful tool for studying neurovascular diseases and monitoring advanced therapies.
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