Probing Tissue Microstructure Using Susceptibility Contrast Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Magnetic resonance imaging is a research and clinical tool that has been applied in a wide variety of sciences. One area of magnetic resonance imaging that has exhibited terrific promise and growth in the past decade is magnetic susceptibility imaging. Imaging tissue susceptibility provides insight into the microstructural organization and chemical properties of biological tissues, but this image contrast is not well understood. The purpose of this work is to develop effective approaches to image, assess, and model the mechanisms that generate both isotropic and anisotropic magnetic susceptibility contrast in biological tissues, including myocardium and central nervous system white matter.
This document contains the first report of MRI-measured susceptibility anisotropy in myocardium. Intact mouse heart specimens were scanned using MRI at 9.4 T to ascertain both the magnetic susceptibility and myofiber orientation of the tissue. The susceptibility anisotropy of myocardium was observed and measured by relating the apparent tissue susceptibility as a function of the myofiber angle with respect to the applied magnetic field. A multi-filament model of myocardial tissue revealed that the diamagnetically anisotropy α-helix peptide bonds in myofilament proteins are capable of producing bulk susceptibility anisotropy on a scale measurable by MRI, and are potentially the chief sources of the experimentally observed anisotropy.
The growing use of paramagnetic contrast agents in magnetic susceptibility imaging motivated a series of investigations regarding the effect of these exogenous agents on susceptibility imaging in the brain, heart, and kidney. In each of these organs, gadolinium increases susceptibility contrast and anisotropy, though the enhancements depend on the tissue type, compartmentalization of contrast agent, and complex multi-pool relaxation. In the brain, the introduction of paramagnetic contrast agents actually makes white matter tissue regions appear more diamagnetic relative to the reference susceptibility. Gadolinium-enhanced MRI yields tensor-valued susceptibility images with eigenvectors that more accurately reflect the underlying tissue orientation.
Despite the boost gadolinium provides, tensor-valued susceptibility image reconstruction is prone to image artifacts. A novel algorithm was developed to mitigate these artifacts by incorporating orientation-dependent tissue relaxation information into susceptibility tensor estimation. The technique was verified using a numerical phantom simulation, and improves susceptibility-based tractography in the brain, kidney, and heart. This work represents the first successful application of susceptibility-based tractography to a whole, intact heart.
The knowledge and tools developed throughout the course of this research were then applied to studying mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease in vivo, and studying hypertrophic human myocardium specimens ex vivo. Though a preliminary study using contrast-enhanced quantitative susceptibility mapping has revealed diamagnetic amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease in the mouse brain ex vivo, non-contrast susceptibility imaging was unable to precisely identify these plaques in vivo. Susceptibility tensor imaging of human myocardium specimens at 9.4 T shows that susceptibility anisotropy is larger and mean susceptibility is more diamagnetic in hypertrophic tissue than in normal tissue. These findings support the hypothesis that myofilament proteins are a source of susceptibility contrast and anisotropy in myocardium. This collection of preclinical studies provides new tools and context for analyzing tissue structure, chemistry, and health in a variety of organs throughout the body.
magnetic resonance imaging
quantitative susceptibility mapping
resonance frequency shift
susceptibility tensor imaging
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