A new method of imaging blood flow has shown how cocaine use can be a precursor to a stroke.
Repetitive use of cocaine and similar drugs have been linked to aneurysm-like bleeding, but the exact reason why has to date been difficult for researchers to pin down.
Researchers from New York Stony Brook University and the US National Insitutes of Health today published results from using a laser-based method which measures blood flow to the brains of mice injected with cocaine for up to 30 days.
The new method provides a much higher resolution than current functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) techniques which are unable to accurately map blood flow when it travels through the tiniest vessels, capillaries.
Study co-author Yingtian Pan said the new method – optical coherence Doppler tomography (ODT) – fires laser light at moving blood cells and bounces back, allowing researchers to measure the change in its frequency.
Early findings published in open-access journal Biomedical Optics Express show repeated cocaine use in mice can cause blood flow to shut down, a condition known as microischemia which is often identified as a precursor to a stroke.
The team said as well as understanding how drug abuse affects the brain, the new method may help improve brain cancer surgery and tissue engineering, as it can also accurately measure the growth of new blood cells.
ODT is currently only effective outside the bodies of small creatures such as mice, as it can penetrate just 1.5mm below a surface, but Pan says it would be suitable for open-brain surgery when operating on tumors.
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