Many neurological diseases present with substantial genetic and phenotypic heterogeneity, making assessment of these diseases challenging. This has led to ineffective treatments, significant morbidity, and high mortality rates for patients with neurological diseases, including brain cancers and neurodegenerative disorders. Improved understanding of this heterogeneity is necessary if more effective treatments are to be developed. We describe a new method to measure phenotypic heterogeneity across the whole rodent brain at multiple spatial scales. The method involves co-registration and localized comparison of in vivo radiologic images (e.g. MRI, PET) with ex vivo optical reporter images (e.g. labeled cells, molecular targets, microvasculature) of optically cleared tissue slices. Ex vivo fluorescent images of optically cleared pathology slices are acquired with a preclinical in vivo optical imaging system across the entire rodent brain in under five minutes, making this methodology practical and feasible for most preclinical imaging labs. The methodology is applied in various examples demonstrating how it might be used to cross-validate and compare in vivo radiologic imaging with ex vivo optical imaging techniques for assessing hypoxia, microvasculature, and tumor growth.
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