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Sci Rep. 2019 Mar 5;9(1):3600. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-39780-4.

Distinguishing Lipid Subtypes by Amplifying Contrast from J-Coupling.

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Louisiana State University School of Veterinary of Medicine, Baton Rouge, LA, USA.
Yale University, Radiology and Biomedical Imaging, New Haven, CT, USA.


Previous work has highlighted the complicated and distinctive dynamics that set signal evolution during a train of spin echoes, especially with nonuniform echo spacing applied to complex molecules like fats. The work presented here regards those signal patterns as codes that can be used as a contrast mechanism, capable of distinguishing mixtures of molecules with an imaging sequence, sidestepping many challenges of spectroscopy. For particular arrays of echo spacings, non-monotonic and distinctive signal evolution can be enhanced to improve contrast between target species. This work presents simulations that show how contrast between two molecules: (a) depends on the specific sequence of echo spacing, (b) is directly linked to the presence of J-coupling, and (c) can be relatively insensitive to variations in B0, T2 and B1. Imaging studies with oils demonstrate this phenomenon experimentally and also show that spin echo codes can be used for quantification. Finally, preliminary experiments apply the method to human liver in vivo, verifying that the presence of fat can lead to nonmonotonic codes like those seen in vitro. In summary, nonuniformly spaced echo trains introduce a new approach to molecular imaging of J-coupled species, such as lipids, which may have implications diagnosing metabolic diseases.

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