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J Magn Reson Imaging. 2014 Jun 11. doi: 10.1002/jmri.24674. [Epub ahead of print]

Phagocytic function of Kupffer cells in mouse nonalcoholic fatty liver disease models: Evaluation with superparamagnetic iron oxide.

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  • 1Department of Radiology and Research Institute of Radiology, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Asan Medical Center, Seoul, Korea.



To evaluate the Kupffer cell (KC) phagocytic function using superparamagnetic iron oxide-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (SPIO-MRI) in animal models with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).


Mouse NAFLD models with varying severity were created by feeding high-fat, high-cholesterol (HFHC) diets to ob/ob mice for 3, 6, or 12 weeks. SPIO-MRI was performed on a 4.7-T animal scanner in the mouse NAFLD models, in wildtype control mouse, and in the NAFLD mice (NAFLD treatment group) that received 6 weeks of pioglitazone treatment. The relative signal loss (RSL) of the liver was measured in each animal to represent the magnitude of SPIO-induced signal loss of the liver. Liver samples were analyzed for steatosis, inflammation, fibrosis, and the number of SPIO particles and KCs.


RSL values of the NAFLD mice (range of RSL value, 26.3%-53.8%) seen on SPIO-MRI were significantly lower than those of the control mice (67.7%-74.8%, P ≤ 0.008) and decreased in proportion to the duration of their HFHC diet (mean ± SD, 53.7% ± 10.9, 44.7% ± 8.2, and 26.3% ± 12.6, after 3-, 6-, and 12-week HFHC diet, respectively, on 20-minute delayed images). For the NAFLD treatment group, the RSL values increased after 6 weeks of pioglitazone treatment, compared with the values before treatment (P ≤ 0.039). The RSL values had significant independent correlation with both hepatic steatosis (P = 0.007) and inflammation (P = 0.023).


KC phagocytic dysfunction is aggravated in the progression of NAFLD and may be reversible with therapeutic intervention. SPIO-MRI may be useful for classifying the severity of NAFLD and monitoring the treatment response of NAFLD.J. Magn. Reson. Imaging 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Copyright © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


Kupffer cell; magnetic resonance imaging; nonalcoholic fatty liver disease; nonalcoholic steatohepatitis; phagocytic function; superparamagnetic iron oxide particle

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