In Vivo Fiber Optic Raman Spectroscopy of Muscle in Preclinical Models of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

Maria Plesia, Oliver A. Stevens, Gavin R. Lloyd, Catherine A. Kendall, Ian Coldicott, Aneurin J. Kennerley, Gaynor Miller, Pamela J. Shaw, Richard J. Mead, John C.C. Day, James J.P. Alix*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neuromuscular diseases result in muscle weakness, disability, and, in many instances, death. Preclinical models form the bedrock of research into these disorders, and the development of in vivo and potentially translational biomarkers for the accurate identification of disease is crucial. Spontaneous Raman spectroscopy can provide a rapid, label-free, and highly specific molecular fingerprint of tissue, making it an attractive potential biomarker. In this study, we have developed and tested an in vivo intramuscular fiber optic Raman technique in two mouse models of devastating human neuromuscular diseases, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Duchenne muscular dystrophy (SOD1G93A and mdx, respectively). The method identified diseased and healthy muscle with high classification accuracies (area under the receiver operating characteristic curves (AUROC): 0.76-0.92). In addition, changes in diseased muscle over time were also identified (AUROCs 0.89-0.97). Key spectral changes related to proteins and the loss of α-helix protein structure. Importantly, in vivo recording did not cause functional motor impairment and only a limited, resolving tissue injury was seen on high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging. Lastly, we demonstrate that ex vivo muscle from human patients with these conditions produced similar spectra to those observed in mice. We conclude that spontaneous Raman spectroscopy of muscle shows promise as a translational research tool.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1768-1776
JournalACS Chemical Neuroscience
Issue number10
Early online date5 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 19 May 2021

Bibliographical note

© 2021 American Chemical Society

Funding Information:
The work was support by an Academy of Medical Sciences Starter grant (JJPA, SGL015\1001) and a Medical Research Council Confidence in Concept award (J.J.P.A., J.C.D., R.J.M., P.J.S., MC_PC_15034). P.J.S. is supported as a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Senior Investigator (NF-SI-0617-10077) and by the NIHR Sheffield Biomedical Research Centre (IS-BRC-1215-20017).

Funding Information:
We thank the staff of the Biological Services Unit, University of Sheffield, for their dedicated support. We acknowledge the Oxford Brain Bank, supported by the Medical Research Council (MRC), Brains for Dementia Research (BDR) (Alzheimer Society and Alzheimer Research UK), Autistica, UK, and the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre.

© 2021 American Chemical Society.


  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • biomarker
  • Duchenne muscular dystrophy
  • muscle
  • Raman spectroscopy

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