Novel Imaging Contrast Methods for Hyperpolarized 13C Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Magnetic resonance imaging using hyperpolarized 13C-labeled small molecules has emerged as an extremely powerful tool for the in vivo monitoring of perfusion and metabolism. This work presents methods for improved imaging, parameter mapping, and image contrast generation for in vivo hyperpolarized 13C MRI. Angiography using hyperpolarized urea was greatly improved with a highly T2-weighted acquisition in combination with 15N labeling of the urea amide groups. This is due to the fact that the T2 of [13C]urea is strongly limited by the scalar coupling to the neighboring quadrupolar 14N. The long in vivo T2 values of [13C,15N2]urea were utilized for sub-millimeter projection angiography using a contrast agent that could be safely injected in concentrations of 10-100 mM while still tolerated in patients with renal insufficiency. This study also presented the first method for in vivo T2 mapping of hyperpolarized 13C compounds. The in vivo T2 of urea was short in the blood and long within the kidneys. This persistent signal component was isolated to the renal filtrate, thus enabling for the first time direct detection of an imaging contrast agent undergoing glomerular filtration. While highly T2-weighted acquisitions select for molecules with short rotational correlation times, high diffusion weighting selects for those with the long translational correlation times. A specialized spin-echo EPI sequence was developed in order to generate highly diffusion-weighted hyperpolarized 13C images on a clinical MRI system operating within clinical peak- RF and gradient amplitude constraints. Low power adiabatic spin echo pulses were developed in order to generate a sufficiently large refocused bandwidth while maintaining low nominal power. This diffusion weighted acquisition gave enhanced tumor contrast-to-noise ratio when imaging [1-13C]lactate after infusion of [1-13C]pyruvate. Finally, the first in-man hyperpolarized 13C MRI clinical trial is discussed.