Despite a long history of development, diagnostic tools for in vivo regional assessment of lungs in patients with pulmonary emphysema are not yet readily available. Recently, a new imaging technique, in vivo lung morphometry, was introduced by our group. This technique is based on MRI measurements of diffusion of hyperpolarized 3He gas in lung air spaces and provides quantitative in vivo tomographic information on lung microstructure at the level of the acinar airways. Compared with standard diffusivity measurements that strongly depend on pulse sequence parameters (mainly diffusion time), our approach evaluates a "hard number," the average acinar airway radius. For healthy dogs, we find here a mean acinar airway radius of ∼0.3 mm compared with 0.36 mm in healthy humans. The purpose of the present study is the application of this technique for quantification of emphysema progression in dogs with experimentally induced disease. The diffusivity measurements and resulting acinar airway geometrical characteristics were correlated with the local lung density and local lung-specific air volume calculated from quantitative computed tomography data obtained on the same dogs. The results establish an important association between the two modalities. The observed sensitivity of our method to emphysema progression suggests that this technique has potential for the diagnosis of emphysema and tracking of disease progression or improvement via a pharmaceutical intervention.
- Hyperpolarized gases
- Magnetic resonance imaging