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Microsc Res Tech. 2018 Feb;81(2):162-170. doi: 10.1002/jemt.22777. Epub 2016 Oct 2.

Assessing the multiscale architecture of muscular tissue with Q-space magnetic resonance imaging: Review.

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Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Northeastern University, Boston, MA, 02115, USA.
Department of Cell and Molecular Physiology, Health Sciences Division, Loyola University of Chicago, Maywood, IL, 60153, USA.


Contraction of muscular tissue requires the synchronized shortening of myofibers arrayed in complex geometrical patterns. Imaging such myofiber patterns with diffusion-weighted MRI reveals architectural ensembles that underlie force generation at the organ scale. Restricted proton diffusion is a stochastic process resulting from random translational motion that may be used to probe the directionality of myofibers in whole tissue. During diffusion-weighted MRI, magnetic field gradients are applied to determine the directional dependence of proton diffusion through the analysis of a diffusional probability distribution function (PDF). The directions of principal (maximal) diffusion within the PDF are associated with similarly aligned diffusion maxima in adjacent voxels to derive multivoxel tracts. Diffusion-weighted MRI with tractography thus constitutes a multiscale method for depicting patterns of cellular organization within biological tissues. We provide in this review, details of the method by which generalized Q-space imaging is used to interrogate multidimensional diffusion space, and thereby to infer the organization of muscular tissue. Q-space imaging derives the lowest possible angular separation of diffusion maxima by optimizing the conditions by which magnetic field gradients are applied to a given tissue. To illustrate, we present the methods and applications associated with Q-space imaging of the multiscale myoarchitecture associated with the human and rodent tongues. These representations emphasize the intricate and continuous nature of muscle fiber organization and suggest a method to depict structural "blueprints" for skeletal and cardiac muscle tissue.


Q-space imaging; diffusion weighted MRI; myoarchitecture


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